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Title: Forward from Babylon
Author: Golding, Louis
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Forward from Babylon" ***

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  FORWARD FROM BABYLON

  BY

  LOUIS GOLDING



  1921
  MOFFAT, YARD & COMPANY
  NEW YORK



FOR MY FATHER



_A Glossary of some Yiddish words is given on p._ 308.



  CONTENTS

  BOOK I

  FORWARD FROM DOOMINGTON WALLS

  CHAPTER

  I
  II
  III
  IV
  V


  BOOK II

  FORWARD FROM PHYLACTERIES

  VI
  VII
  VIII
  IX
  X


  BOOK III

  APHRODITE

  XI
  XII
  XIII
  XIV
  XV
  XVI



FORWARD FROM BABYLON



BOOK I

FORWARD FROM DOOMINGTON WALLS


CHAPTER I

Russia--here was the first Babylon.  Sitting on the metal stool, his
second-hand velvet suit fraying against the heat of the oven, Philip's
big eyes were round with horror of this immense, inscrutable place.
Everything they said was portentous, not wholly real.  Many of their
words attained a meaning only after laborious thinking.

"_Kossacken_--big as trees!"

"Big spikes in front of the Gubernator's house!  Babies stuck!  Rachel,
the parchment-maker's daughter, caught up on a white horse!  Never
heard of again!"

"Blood in the streets, thick!"

A fear and a helpless rage seized the faces there, always only half
seen in the gloom of the kitchen.  By day, beyond the bars which
uselessly scowled against the small glass panes, the drab walls of the
house next door kept away everything but a dirty and dubious light.  By
night, the flare of the coal-gas jet distorted his father, Reb Monash,
and his own feet on the fender, and the sofa into things of blurred,
awkward lines.

It must be confessed that Reb Monash Massel was not wholly unconscious
of his power to produce this atmosphere where terrible and impalpable
presences flowed from his lips in a shadowy rout.  Sabres flashing!
Hilarious ponderous blasphemies tangled in the beards of _Kossacken_
storming onward and away!

"You've heard me talk of Mendel, the Red One?  No, not the shoemaker,
the clerk!  It was when a clerk he was, in the woods!  They were
cutting the Posne firs.  They knew he was a Jew, the wood-cutters, and
they put their heads together.  Can one be a Jew without stabbing the
_goyishke_ eyes, eh?  He was working very late one night; it was near
the end of the month and he had all his accounts to make up.  Well, he
was bending over his papers very busy, and it was late, after midnight.
There were owls hooting and two or three mad dogs in the woods crying
now and again.  It was very miserable, but he was bent over his
figures.  Above his head the air sang suddenly.  He lifted his head and
a knife he saw, quivering in the log wall beyond him, to his left.  The
window on his right was wide open because it was a sultry night.  He
got up quietly and closed the window, then took the knife out to give
back to its owner next day.  He was settling down to his work again
when his eye was caught by something gleaming in the opposite wall.
They were very badly built log cottages, these, pulled down as soon as
the trees in that part of the forest were cleared.  Badly built, big
chinks between the logs.  It was the gleam of a gun pointing at him
through a chink...."

Somebody uttered a sharp cry.  Philip on the fender-stool sat with the
points of his elbows striking into his thighs, his chin pressed down
into the palms of his hands.  A burning coke exploded in the fire and a
fragment jumped out on the mat.  Mrs. Massel stooped to it and swiftly,
with unprotected hands, threw it back into the fire.

"It's already a long time ago," said Reb Monash.  "I wasn't fifteen
yet.  I wasn't married.  It's all over now, it's all over.  Besides,"
he went on comfortably, at the risk of disturbing the atmosphere he had
created by his subtle modulations of tone, his pauses, his notes of
drawn tension, "besides, they'll all be frying in hell, the
wood-cutters, one and all!  What will you?"

A slight murmur of satisfaction went round among the women.  The
assurance coming from so authoritative a source as Reb Monash himself,
no one could doubt that the wood-cutters had long ago met their deserts
and were still adequately enduring them.

"_Nu tatte_, what about Mendel, the Red One?"  This from Philip in an
anxious quaver.

Reb Monash looked round and down on Philip, a significant droop in his
eyelids, his lips tightening a little.

"_Schweig_," he said.  "Silence! is thy _tatte_ running away?"

"Hush!" Mrs. Massel echoed, very quietly, from her corner of the sofa.

Reb Monash could not resist the temptation of taking out one of his
Silver Virginia cigarettes, deliberately setting it in his mouthpiece,
lighting it, and drawing smoke two or three times contemplatively.

Somebody's foot tapped in a corner.  He resumed.  "_Yah_, a gun
pointing at him through a chink.  What was there to do, I ask you?  If
they fired--well, they fired, and he was dead.  If they didn't fire, he
was alive.  And if a man's alive, a man must live.  Not so?  So he took
his quill in his hand again ... and he heard a little noise in the wall
behind him.  He looked round.  Another gun.  There, held by unseen
hands in the night.  Another gun.  Pointing at him.  Two guns pointing
at him.  He turned round to his table again.  A Jew's not a Jew for
nothing.  He said a few blessings.  Thou hearest, Feivel?" turning to
Philip.

Philip swallowed a lump in his throat fearfully.  He was afraid to
answer.  It was perhaps one of those rhetorical questions to which an
answer was somehow, mysteriously, an offence.  He thrust his head
deeper into his hands and blinked.

"He said a few blessings," Reb Monash repeated, to press the moral home
upon his listeners.  "Well, what will you?  He was a good clerk, very
neat.  And while the minutes in his clock were ticking as slowly as the
years during the Time of Bondage, his figures he brought over from
column to column.  When came the first sign of morning so that the lamp
shone less strongly on the two guns in the walls there, pointed at his
heart," these last words with slow emphasis and repeated, "pointed at
his heart--he dipped his head and hands into his bowl of water, took
out his _tallus_ and his _tephilim_; and when he was passing the strap
round his arm, he heard very faintly the guns withdrawn through the
chinks in the walls.  But he could hear no feet creeping away.
Besides, he was _davenning_; how could he listen to anything else?
It's only God you must think about when you're _davenning_, no?

"He finished when it was already day in his hut.  His beard--it was a
small beard, only a young man's beard--was grey, like the snow in Angel
Street.  He did his accounts so well, did Mendel, the Red One--they
always called him the Red One, even after that night, and strangers
wondered why Red One--so well, that the merchant he worked for
increased his wages by a rouble a month soon after.  Oh, a Russia it
was!  What say you?"

By this time Mrs. Levine, from Number Seven, was soaked in tears, her
face, her blouse, and even the flour on her apron was streaky and damp.
She had come in half-way through, but any anecdote, sad or merry, or
merely a parable to illustrate a point of law, invariably reduced her
to tears.

"_Nu, nu!_" said Reb Monash, "over a year in Jerusalem!" which was a
signal that no further ramification was to be expected from that
anecdote, and moreover, that it might not be unwise for Mrs. Massel to
drop her knitting and prepare for him a tumblerful of tea and lemon,
with a lump of sugar--not too much lemon, for these were hard times;
not like Russia, where people hung round your neck to beg the privilege
from you of staying with them as a guest for two months, three months,
as long as you liked.  Well, that was Russia, but what could you expect
from England?  Pah!  _Yidishkeit_ going to the dogs!  Young men he'd
seen with his own eyes shamelessly boarding those new-fangled electric
tramcars on a _Shabbos_!  Which involved a double offence; not only
riding but also carrying money in their pockets to pay for this
dissipation--money on _Shabbos_!

So it seemed, Philip was fitfully made aware, that there were aspects
of this Russian Babylon which compared very favourably with the
situation in England, or, more precisely, in the drab Northern city of
Doomington, where Philip first saw the light, seven years before; or,
perhaps, to be accurate, in Angel Street, where the wire factory at one
end and the grocer's shop at the other were the limits of his confident
experience.  Beyond Moishele's shop ("grocer's" shop only for
convenience, seeing that his stock-in-trade extended from
sewing-machines to fish and beetroot), Doomington Road extended its
sonorous length, where, sole oases in this desert of terror, Philip
recognized the Bridgeway Elementary School and the Polish Synagogue,
the _Polisher Shool_.

It was not wholly that the young scions of Judæa in Russia were so far
from committing definite sins against God and Man that their days were
a positive round of gratuitous holiness.  Much as Philip tried
dutifully to rejoice with his father over this sanctity of young
Russian Jewry, even when Reb Monash significantly expatiated on the
talents of young gentlemen only seven years old who steered their own
vessels through the dark seas of Kaballah--it was not this piety which
set Philip brooding.

The landscape which his elders painted, unconsciously and incidentally,
as a background to their memories, filled his mind with inchoate
sequences of pictures.  To the Jewish mind there is only one landscape
which purely for its own sake arrests the mind and the heart.  Each
detail of Jordan or Lebanon is impressed centuries too deep for its
deletion under snow or dissolution under fire.  Plateau of Spain, the
turbid flow of Volga, the squalid nightmare of Doomington Road, are
matters of indifference to the Judaic protagonists while the great
drama develops along its austere and shoddy ways towards some
_dénouement_ far beyond the invisible hills.  To Reb Monash the
Orthodox Greek Church he had known at home and from which his eyes
turned bitterly away, whence the black-hearted pappas came forth and,
on seeing Reb Monash, grimaced and bit his lips, had imperceptibly
become the Baptist Missionary Chapel at the corner of Travers Row,
whence the Rev. Wilberforce Wilkinson emerged from time to time,
bestowing on every Reb Monash or Philip Massel who came that way a
smile beatific with missionary invitation.

But it was a matter of much concern to Philip that the Dniester which
flowed beyond the pear-orchards (pear-orchards! he tried wistfully to
recreate them spreading their splendid snows beyond the kitchen
wallpaper) was clean as--clean as the water in the scullery tap.  Which
seemed mythological.  Philip's acquaintance with rivers was limited to
the River Mitchen that flowed on the further side of the wire factory
and parallel with Doomington Road.  The river stank--literally and
abundantly.  When it rose after the spring floods of two years ago, the
cellars of Angel Street were a wash of noisome and greasy waters.

"It happened in the centre of a forest..." said one.  "Trees--the sun
never got through their leaves in summer..." said another.  "Yes, she
had her own vines and fig trees...."  "... Corn, barley, all rotten in
the rains..."  "... and after that, to finish them, they had five
haystacks burned to the ground;" "the orchard by the river, near the
Woman's Pool ..." they said to each other.

It was little more than words to Philip.  It seemed illogical that
there should be a river, which, being a river, did not stink.  Fruit
could hardly be dissociated from the baskets and trays at Moishele's
shop.  True, there were unconvincing pictures of fruit trees in the
classroom at school, but they lent only a feeble corroboration.

And then inevitably the talk came round from orchards and clean rivers
to the old Babylonian horrors.

"It happened in winter.  I stood in the trunk of a rotten tree till
nightfall.  All day I could hear the women screaming and the horses of
the _Kossacken_ storming in from the country.  They set fire to
Miriam's house, and when she came to the window holding her hands out
to the crowd ... they threw a broken wine bottle in her face...."

When Reb Monash fell into his best anecdotic form, Philip sometimes,
only a year or two ago, had been afraid to venture beyond the front
door, in fear of _Kossacken_ galloping in with drawn sabres from
Doomington Road.  Indubitably the night was compact with their menace.
Only gradually he shook off these alarms.  England, he realized, the
very filth of the Mitchen river impressing it upon him, and the grime
of these grassless, clangorous streets, England was not Russia--a
knowledge won only after thick agony and his brow soaked with midnight
terror.  Russia--the first Babylon--the dread, the enmity, faded into
the murky Doomington skies.

One scene remained with him to consummate this nightmare.  Reb Monash
told the story frequently.  If he had played a part whereat women
lowered their respectful eyes with a fleeting gesture of disapproval or
impatience, his piety none the less was confirmed, if it needed
confirmation, in the eyes of the Lord Himself.

It was many years ago now, years before Philip was born.  Reb Monash at
last was emigrating from Russia to the Western world.  His family and
half a dozen other families had been packed into the uncovered
emigrants' cart which was to take them to the railway terminus many
leagues away, where they would entrain for Germany and Hamburg.  It was
a matter of no interest to the authorities that at most a dozen people
could breathe comfortably and stretch their limbs in the vehicle they
provided.  Family after family was bundled in, every half-foot of extra
space was crammed with bedding and the few household goods which, the
more cumbrous they were, they found the more indispensable.

Why, indeed, Reb Monash was emigrating he had not precisely satisfied
himself.  Though fear of a _pogrom_ hovered ever on the horizon, a
cloud no bigger than a man's hand, but liable, any wind of prejudice
blowing, to streak the sky with more sanguine hues than sunset, this
had been beyond memory so much a normal feature of existence that it
could not have been the determining factor.  If the traditional
_wanderlust_ animated him, he was too much in demand as an orator in
the synagogues hundreds of miles round Terkass to lack means to gratify
his instinct.  It cannot have been the sentiment that young Jewry in
England and America (where he was intending to end his provisional
pilgrimage) had so far fallen from grace that it needed the example of
his physical presence before it could resume the narrow road; it can
hardly have been that--for such ungodliness as prevailed in England and
America needed to be seen before it could be imagined.

"But there we were," said Reb Monash, "Chayah," this being Mrs. Massel,
"with little Rochke, peace be upon her, at her breast, and myself and
Dorah and little Channah.  Oh, what a wind was blowing!  Knives!
Packed like dead men in coffins we were!  Then the driver cracked his
whip and we were away.  It was a desolate country, only we could see
the long road in front and overhead the cold clouds and the fir trees
running along the road by our side, patiently, like wolves!  We could
only hear the wind and the bells of the horses and their hoofs,
click-click, click-click, hour after hour.  But though the wind blew so
cold in our faces, there was no room to breathe, no room.  To stretch
out the chest, an impossible thing.  And then there was a station at
the roadside where we stopped and--imagine it! they put another five,
six people in the cart.  Think of it!  We started to grumble and some
of the women and girls began to cry.  What do you expect?  They were
half-dead for sleep.  But how could they sleep, crushed like that,
standing, with no room to bend, let alone lie down, and the wind
driving through their chattering teeth.  There was an official there.
'Curse you!' shouted he, when he heard us lift our voices, 'Curse you!'

"May he be cursed to his father's father!" every one in the kitchen
muttered bitterly.

"'Curse you for a lousy lot--you beggars, you rats!  Ugh!'  He spat
into the cart, in amongst us.  _Nu_, we did what possible was to let
the new people come in.  Can you picture for yourselves--Oh! you
can't--what it was like?  Rochke, peace be upon her, was at the breast.
We could hear the poor baby crying for food, eh, Chayah?"

But Mrs. Massel could never bear the telling of this tale.  She would
be in the scullery peeling potatoes.  Not washing up.  It was
indiscreet to make a noise when Reb Monash was talking.  If Philip
dropped a book, Reb Monash had to pause a full minute until he
recovered the evenness of his flow.

"Poor little Rochke, peace be upon her, crying for food!  And so
crushed were we that there wasn't even room to feed the child, though
everybody understood and tried to make room.  Now, perhaps you'll
realize what it was like.  As the child became more and more hungry she
became too weak even to cry.  It was getting dark and I started my
night prayers.  Then I heard Chayah shout to me, 'Monash!  Monash!'  It
was not the first time she'd cried 'Monash!' to me that day.  What
could I do?  What help was there?  I just went on _davenning_.  Ah, the
poor child, the poor child, God wanted thee!"

His eyes softened.  There was a huskiness in his throat.  The women in
the kitchen lifted their aprons to their eyes.  If there were any men
there they cleared their throats staunchly.  Philip sat on the fender
stool, his heart bursting with pity for his mother.  "Poor mother! my
own poor mother!" he felt like whispering into her ear and throwing his
arms round her neck and assuring her that he was alive and _he_ would
love her and die for her at the last.  But he remembered that he was
not encouraged to display vehemently his passion for his mother.  Very
gently he slipped from the stool, turned round into the scullery and
took a knife to help her peel the potatoes.  At all events, he would
not allow her to work so cruelly hard.  Why, her fingers were dry and
thin!  No! he would never let her work like this.  Never mind, when he
grew up...

"Poor child, poor child!" Reb Monash continued, his voice a trifle
unsteady.  "How can I tell you?  She was suffocating there.  No room
for her little lungs to open and draw breath!  'Monash, the child, the
child!' Chayah was saying.  What could I do?  How could I understand?
Besides, I was _davvenning_--how could I interrupt?  And her little
face was growing grey.  What?  Do you understand?  There was no room
for her heart to beat ... so her heart stopped beating!"

Again there was a pause.  The suffocation which had gripped the child
in that monstrous cart years ago seemed to occupy the kitchen in Angel
Street.  It was not only the shut window; the beneficence of the
architects of Angel Street had declared that kitchen-windows should be
close-sealed as a wall.  It was not the shut doors; the doors were
always shut because a "draught" aggravated Reb Monash's cough and
rendered him speechless for minutes.  That suffocation from the Russian
road had descended upon Angel Street.  Some one opened his collar and
craned his neck for air.

"But, of course, Chayah would not believe that anything had happened to
the child.  I could only see Rochke very indistinctly because we'd been
separated by the crowd.  'It's only a fit!  Shake her, shake her, if
thou canst!' I said.  'Or perhaps a sickness of the stomach!' said
Chayah.  'It will be well with the child when we stop and get down!
She'll have some air and food, and she'll be all right, no?  Oh yes,
she will, she will!  Sleep then, sleep then, babynu, all in mammy's
arms!' she sang.

"God alone knows what the place was where we stopped to change horses.
And Rochke, peace be upon her?  Well, what need to talk?  She's happier
than you or me.  Oh, but what an ornament to the race she would have
been!  Such eyes, the little one, holy, like an old woman's!  But wait,
the story's not finished yet.  Can it be believed?  The officials
there, they wanted us to continue the journey with the dead child!  The
smirched of soul, the godless ones!  Wanted us to go on with the dead
child!  And when even they saw it was against God and Man, they wanted
to bury her there and then, in unconsecrated ground!  Oi!  Oi! has it
been heard of since Moses?  But always put your trust in the Above One
and all will be well with you.  Know that!  Think of us, in the
wilderness, with a dead baby, and no holy ground to bury her and not a
friend anywhere.  The cart had gone on to the next stage, with Dorah
and Channah.  Think of us!

"It was then the Above One came to our help.  A Jewish merchant was on
the road with a load of dried fruit.  He stopped, God be thanked, at
the station, and we told him how things lay with us.  And would you
believe it?  Not a penny he would take--not much was there to give--but
he took the baby away and gave her holy burial in his own town!  Be his
years long in the land!  May his seed multiply to the fourth and fifth
generation!  And so all is well with Rochke, peace be upon her!"

Reb Monash obviously drew much consolation for the whole episode from
the fact that the Above One had shown him this signal favour, and the
last offices had been performed unimpeachably over Rochke's body.

But perhaps Philip was too young to be comforted by the thoughts of the
propriety with which the incident had closed.  He could only see very
clearly the figures of his mother, blank-eyed, her hands empty,
standing alone in Babylon, in that bleak Russian night.



CHAPTER II

Philip had not yet recovered from the dull dismay with which he had
found himself installed as a scholar in the Infants' Class of the
Bridgeway Elementary School.  He had attained the age of five.  Within
quite recent memory he had been breeched.  He still remembered the
pocket in his skirt which was crammed with "stuffs"--the main
merchandise of his companions, snippets of prints, calicoes, alpacas
and linen rags picked up below the maternal needles and generally on
the doorsteps of Angel Street.

Reb Monash was by no means hostile to the idea that Philip should
acquire a Gentile education, on the broad understanding that it should
not outshadow Philip's accomplishment in Hebrew lore.  It went without
saying that labour on the Saturday should be anathema under any
concatenation of the links of Fate.  Moreover, the law of the land, in
the person of the "School Board," had been eyeing him significantly.

"It's time Philip should begin school!" said Reb Monash shatteringly
one evening.  Philip lay dozing on the horse-hair sofa.  His heart
shook before the joint assault of a great joy and a great fear.
"School"--that unfathomable place of red brick and towering windows,
where the "lads" went, the swaggering young men who jumped from
pavement to pavement of Angel Street in five jumps; where one was
brought into direct visual contact with "pleaseteacher," a thing beyond
all imagination lovely and terrible.

"So Channah, thou wilt not go to work to-morrow morning.  He's an old
man, Philip, and he must make his start in life."

"All right, _tatte_!" Channah murmured.  She thought ruefully of the
fourpence or eightpence less it would mean in her week's total as a
buttonhole hand.  But she was devoted to Philip and his wise, elderly
ways, and the thought of setting his feet upon the paths of that
learning whence her own feet had been rudely torn on the morning of
Philip's birth was worth the sacrifice of many fourpences.

Philip's face shone soapily next morning.  His black hair lay stretched
in rigidly parallel formations on both sides of his impeccable parting.
Channah had shined his button-boots with so much rubbing and spitting
into congealed blacking that his boots seemed to focus all the light in
the kitchen.  His mother had adorned his blouse with a great bow of
vermilion sateen.

"Is pleaseteachers like policemans?" Philip asked, as Channah led him
by a hand clammy with apprehension along the Doomington Road to the
Bridgeway Elementary School.

"Oh no!  Pleaseteachers are much more lovely!" was the reply.
"Policemen only lock little boys up, but pleaseteachers give 'em
toffee--and flowers!"

"And flowers?" echoed Philip incredulously.

When they arrived at the entrance to the school, a sudden nausea
overwhelmed Philip.

"I'se not going to school!" he said suddenly and firmly.

"Feivele, what do you mean?"

"I'se not going!"

"What's the matter with you?  Why aren't you going?"

"_Dat's_ why!"

But Channah had not come unprepared for such an emergency.  Mrs. Massel
had anticipated it with a stick-jaw of Moishele's best.  She held it
towards the child and made provocative labial noises.

"Aren't you going now?"

"No!" he said a little more doubtfully.

She had another weapon in the armoury.

"_Tatte_ will give you such a _pitch-patch_!" she said
threateningly--_pitch-patch_ being a form of castigation among all
nations as constant in method as it is variable in name.

In the surge of new fears, Reb Monash had been temporarily obscured.
Philip's mind travelled back swiftly to the knees of Reb Monash where
at so sinless an age he had already lain transversely more than once.
He contemplated the possibility of _pitch-patch_ for some moments.

"Gib me de stickjaw, den!" he said.

"You can't eat it now!"

"One suck!" he wheedled.

They passed duly through the vestibule into the great "infants' hall."
At its geometrical centre the principal pleaseteacher sat, pavilioned
in terrors.  A few words of high import passed between Miss
Featherstone and Channah.  Before Philip's eyes the walls soared
endlessly into perpendicular space.  There was no ceiling.  He made the
hideous discovery that there was no floor to the room.  His shining
boots hung suspended in space.  Strange antiphonies propounded and
expounded the cosmic mysteries.  He was lost.  He was rolling headlong
among the winds, like a piece of cotton-fluff lifted high above the
roofs of Angel Street.

What was this?  The pleaseteacher was looking at him; her mouth was
opening; there were big cracks on each side of her nose.  Yes, she was
smiling into him.  He resumed his ponderable qualities.  He was a
little boy dismally sick in the infants' hall of the Bridgeway
Elementary School.  He preferred to be a piece of cotton-fluff.  It was
a more impersonal doom.

"What's your name, little boy?"

He wondered whether it was an impertinence to reply.  It was funny and
dry at the back of his throat.  He stared fixedly at the crack on the
left side of her nose.

"What's your name, little boy?"  A certain acidulation had thinned her
voice.

"My name Feivele an' I live at ten Angel Street an' I'm five years old
an' my farver's Rebbie Massel!" he said, the words trembling out in a
bewildered spate.

"Will you ask your brother to speak a little more slowly and
distinctly, Miss Massel?  Thank you.  Now what's your name, little boy?"

"Philip Massel, pleaseteacher!"

"Now, Philip Massel.  I'm your head mistress.  You must call _me_ Miss
Featherstone.  Miss Briggs!" she called, "Miss Briggs!  Will you please
put Philip Massel into your class?"  Then turning to Philip, "You will
kindly call Miss Briggs 'teacher.'  You understand?"

"Yes, pleaseteacher!"

"Stupid!  But he'll soon know better," she assured Channah.

"Yes, Miss Featherstone!" Channah corroborated.  Philip's hand
feverishly held his sister's all this while.

"You'd better just see him to his place," said Miss Featherstone to
Channah, as Miss Briggs led the way to her class.

"Sit here, Philip," said Miss Briggs, "next to Hyman Marks!"

"Don't go 'way, don't go 'way!" Philip huskily implored Channah.
Hundreds of scornful eyes were stripping him bare of his blouse, his
shined boots, his bow of vermilion sateen, till they all lay at his
feet in a miserable heap and he shivered there in the cold, naked,
despised.  "Don't go 'way!" he moaned.

Channah looked despairingly towards Miss Briggs.

Miss Briggs seized her chalk significantly.  It was time the new-comer
had settled down.

"I'll tell you what," said Channah, "I'll go to Moishele's and buy you
a ha'pny tiger nuts and a box of crayons.  And I'll come back straight
away."

"Promise!" he demanded in anguish.

"_Emmes!_" she said, invoking the Hebrew name of Truth.

"_Emmes what?_"  He knew that Truth unsupported by an invocation to the
Lord was a weak buttress.

"_Emmes adoshem!_" she said, her heart sinking at the perjury.  But,
she consoled herself, it was not as if she had sworn by the undiluted
form of the oath, "_Emmes adonoi!_" from the violation of which
solemnity there is no redemption.

Philip saw her disappear through the doors.  A black cloud of
loneliness enveloped him until he could hardly breathe.  The terrifying
sing-song of these young celebrants at their fathomless ceremony had
begun again.

  _Twice one are two,
  One and one are two!
  Twice two are four,
  Two and two are four!_


Fantastic hieroglyphs danced across the blackboard at the dictate of
Miss Briggs' chalk.  The heavy minutes ticked and ticked in a
reiteration of monochrome and despair.

  _Twice one are two,
  One and one are two!_


What teeth she had, Miss Briggs!  Not like his mother's!  A little
yellow his mother's were, but small and neat, as he observed whenever
she smiled one of her tired and sweet smiles.  What was the specific
purpose of Miss Briggs' teeth?  Why should those two at the top in
front be so large and pointed?  He had heard old Mo who sold newspapers
tell tales about canninbles.  Wass Miss Briggs a canninble?  Oh the
long, long Channahless minutes!  When would she come?  What?  Some one
was whispering behind him.

"Say, kid!"

Philip was afraid to turn round.  What would Miss Briggs do if he
turned round?  And she had two such horrid teeth, at the top, in front!

"Say, kid!  Got anyfing?"

Philip turned his head round fearfully.  A villainously scowling face
was bent over from the bench behind towards his own.

"Aven't yer got nuffing?"

Philip looked helplessly into the forbidding face.

"I tell yer, kid!" the voice menaced, "if yer don't gib me anyfing,
I'll spifflicate yer!"

The process of spifflication sounded as terrible as it certainly was
vague.  Philip put his hand into his trouser-pocket where the lump of
stickjaw lay warmly spreading its seductive bounties over the lining.
To part with a whole lump of stickjaw from which the one due he had
extracted was a single suck!  But, on the other hand, spifflication!
And moreover, soon, oh surely very, very soon, Channah would come back
with the tiger nuts, not to mention the box of crayons.  He drew the
lump of sticky languor from his pocket.  A grubby fist from behind
closed round it.

  _Twice two are four,
  Two and two are four!_


Faithless Channah!  How could the mere passing of time be such a
labour?  He subsided into a daze of stupefaction; only the hope of
Channah's appearance buzzed and buzzed like a fly on the ear-drum.  A
great tear rolled slowly down his face.  Another followed and another.
They dropped into the bow of vermilion sateen.  Suppose his mother
should die in his absence?  Or there might be a big, big fire!  And
just suppose....

A great clangour of bells!  Miss Featherstone on her dais shut a book
with a loud snap.  Miss Briggs definitively placed her chalk on her
desk.  A pleaseteacher from another class walked with dignity over to
the piano at the far end of the hall.  She lifted the lid and played a
slow march.  The top class filed out from the desks, advanced in single
order to a red line which, starting a few feet from Miss Featherstone's
dais, led to the door; the class marched along the red line and passed
with decorum from the hall.  When Philip walked the red line in his
turn he was wondering whether he ought to be placing each foot
centrally upon the line.  Dizzily he staggered along.  When at last he
rushed out into the road, wild with the relief from servitude, Mrs.
Massel was waiting for him outside the school entrance, and when she
lifted him from his feet, he howled with fearful delight.

His heart was full of resentment against Channah for her ignoble
desertion.  "Channah de Pannah, de big fat fing!" he jeered, when he
saw her at dinner.  Only the surface of his wound was healed when she
bestowed upon him not only the tiger nuts and the box of crayons but a
gratuitous tin trumpet gay with scarlet wools.

He refused vehemently to return to school that afternoon.  But Reb
Monash, entering the kitchen from the sitting-room where his _chayder_,
his Hebrew school, was installed, speedily convinced him that the
morning's bitter destiny must again be pursued.

For days his tiny faculties were flattened beneath the weight of his
bewilderment.  When, one morning, he went with the others into the
playground for the interval, he crept inconspicuously on the skirts of
the shrieking masses to the furthest corner in the wall, where he
crouched, huddled, wondering what it was like to be grown up.  When a
lady came into the playground and vigorously rang a bell, he felt that
no bell had any meaning to him.  He was apart, unwanted.  When he saw
the children lining up in their classes and passing into the school
with their teachers at their head, he turned towards them a dull
abstracted eye.  But when the appalling quiet of the playground
impressed itself upon him, and he heard the choruses droning through
the windows, "Twice One are Two," he realized with a sickening pang of
alarm that he too was a cog in that machine, that he ought to have been
minutes and minutes ago on the inner side of those walls.

His face was hot with shame as he dragged his feet through the door,
and along the red line which burned down the hall like a trail of fire.
When he slunk into his place like a cat with a stolen steak into a
cellar, he found the eyes of Miss Briggs turned towards him so round
with stony horror that he feared they must drop from their sockets.
Hyman Marks next door gazed virtuously at him and turned away with a
sniff.

Something of this early stupefaction remained with him, even though he
had passed from the infants' hall to the upstairs department.
"Pleaseteacher" had long been attenuated into "teacher," and Miss
Green, who was the genius president over Standard Two, had entertained
for him more than a teacherly regard ever since Philip had raised his
hand in the middle of a lesson and inquired from her, "Please, Miss
Green, can pupils marry teachers?"  They frequently maintained long
conversations when school was over, until Philip suddenly would bethink
himself of the duties his racial tongue demanded and which awaited him
in _chayder_ under the unremitting vigilance of Reb Monash; whereon,
with a troubled "Please, good afternoon, teacher!" he would scamper
off.  Miss Green liked the sonority with which he delivered the
recitations she taught in class.  He had a premature sense of tragedy.

  _On Linden when the sun was low,
  All darkly lay the untrodden snow--_

he delivered with the long modulations of a funeral dirge.  He seemed
to have discovered a new delight in the mere utterance of rhythmic
lines.  "On Linden when the sun was low," he chanted on his way home
from school, bringing his right foot down heavily upon the iambic
stresses of the line.  There was a Saturday morning when Reb Monash
tested his knowledge of the Bible portion to be read in the synagogue
that day with "Say then, Feivele, what is the chapter in _shool_
to-day?"

Philip was abstracted.  His mind was recreating his latest conversation
with Miss Green.

"On Linden when the sun was low!" he replied.  Reb Monash stared at
him.  "Proselytized one!" he exclaimed.  "What means this?"  He led
Philip to a copy of the Pentateuch and summarily refreshed his mind.

They were great friends, Miss Green and Philip, a fact which did not
leave Philip's behaviour uninfluenced.  The class was filing through
the open door, (in the upstairs department the classes had single rooms
instead of a common hall).  He had not noticed that an unfamiliar
teacher was standing at the door in Miss Green's place, and just before
entering he turned round to exchange a few words with his successor in
the procession.

"You bad boy!" exclaimed the voice of the strange lady.  "Do not sit
down in your place!  You will stand in the corner till I ask for you!"

Philip's ears were rimmed with hot shame.  The procession ended.  "Come
here!" said the lady.  "Hold your hand out!  Now!"  Five, ten, twenty
times, she brought a ruler down on his knuckles.  It was not the pain
which mattered.  It was the disgrace!  He, Miss Green's young
friend--or, as his class-mates with characteristic envy and vulgarity
called it, her "sucker-up!"  Acute as his humiliation was, he kept
strict count of the ruler's descent upon his knuckles.  Twenty-four!
Wouldn't Miss Green have something to say about it!

When the class filed into the room next day, Miss Green was looking
down upon Philip with so affectionate a regard that the shame and anger
pent within him since yesterday burst their bounds and he broke into
tears.

Horror upon horror!  Miss Green, touched to the heart by these sudden
tears, bent down from her Olympian five-foot-four and kissed him loudly
on the forehead!  It was too much to bear!  A platonic display of
mutual respect was an excellent arrangement.  But this descent into the
murky ether of physical contact injured his sense of fitness.  The
sudden drought of his tears, the bright red spot in the centre of each
cheek, instructed Miss Green that she had erred.  "These inscrutable
little Jew-boys!" she mused, and turned to Alfred and the cakes.

Next day she asked him to stay a moment with her after school.  They
both realized the impropriety of any reference to yesterday's incident.
There followed a little small talk, then--

"Tell me, Philip," she said quietly, "tell me which you'd rather be,
Jew or Christian?"

The wheels of the whole world for one instant ceased their revolutions.
Here in truth was the end of an epoch and the beginning of another.
Here was an issue which nothing had ever before presented to his mind,
and an issue stated so simply.  "Tell me, Philip, which would you
rather be, Jew or Christian?"  He caught his breath as he envisioned
the state of affairs when such things as being Jew or Christian
depended upon one's own volition.  For one instant cool as snow and
loud with the volume of plunging waters a something beyond even this
came from far off and looked mournfully and intensely into his eyes: he
beheld a state of things where nothing bound him with chains, where
dispassionately he looked at Jew and Christian, and walked away,
onward, up the slopes of a hill, where words like these had lost all
meaning.

He staggered on the locker where Miss Green had placed him.  His
forehead was damp with a slight dew of sweat.  The blackboard caught
his eyes.

      26
      34
     ---
     104
     78
     ---
     884


Yes, yes, that was more intelligent.  He scratched his head and looked
down at his feet.  Really when you come to think of it, Christians did
eat repulsive things.  There was a Christian boy in the playground one
afternoon eating a _brawn_ sandwich--despicable food, spotted and pale
pink like the white cat at home after the kettle of boiling water had
fallen on its fur.  True! it seemed that Christian boys occasionally
went for their holidays and saw cows and trees and things--a distinct
feather in the Christian hat.  But on the other hand, Mr. Barkle was a
Christian, and only Christians could kill rabbits like Mr. Barkle.  The
slaughtering of animals was a very peculiar and limited privilege among
his own folk--a rite performed, as Reb Monash had made clear to the
_chayder_, swiftly, painlessly and professionally.  Mr. Barkle, on the
other hand, had brought a rabbit into Standard Two for "object lesson"
and murdered it, slowly, publicly.  Mr. Barkle himself was not unlike a
rabbit.  He was very fat and his grey waistcoat resembled the rabbit's
belly.  But his eyes sparkled somewhat unpleasantly--very different
from the rabbit's big, brown frightened eyes.  And Mr. Barkle had
pressed the rabbit's neck between his hands, till the eyes became
bigger and bigger, and the legs moved convulsively, and a long low
whistle came out mournfully from the rabbit's throat, and the legs
twitched only faintly and then hung quite limp.

After Mr. Barkle had cut up the animal to describe its parts, a little
Christian boy had said:

"Please, Mister Barkle, can I take the rabbit 'ome?  Farver luvs
rabbits!"

No!  Philip determined.  _No!_ he would never be a Christian!

Yet Miss Green was a Christian.  It would be impolite to be too decided
about it.

"Please, Miss Green," he said, looking up, "I'd rarver stay wot I was
born!"

"There's a wise boy!" said Miss Green, with the faintest touch of
chagrin.  And the conversation pursued less transcendental roads.



CHAPTER III

At no time did Philip find the society of his coevals congenial; the
society at least of the young males of his age; which was an element in
his composition not, I venture, to be crudely dismissed as one form or
another of priggishness.

Whatever the defects were of Philip's education, and these were not
inconsiderable, he was never warned to have no truck with Barney of
next door because his father was a presser and rigidly banished collars
from his wardrobe, excepting on _Yom Kippur_, the Day of Atonement, on
which occasion a waterproof collar did annual service with much
_éclat_; nor were fogs of dubiety sedulously created around Mr. and
Mrs. Lavinsky, whose premarital relations were, it was rumoured, not
free from stain.

Yet inherently Philip held himself aloof from all the "lads" in Angel
Street.  He felt, not consciously and certainly not in defined words,
that everything coarse and cruel in the architecture of Angel Street
had taken hold of their spirit.  There was as much of the frankly and
repulsively animal in them as in the sharp-ribbed cats who chattered
obscenely on the walls.  He felt at times when he saw the boys
slithering along the roofs that fragments of the very roofs, steeped in
grime and dirty rain as they were, had detached themselves and become
animate.

He turned with relief to the latest "poetry" he had been taught; in the
reverberant recessions of rhythm the boys were rolled over and sucked
down like pebbles in an ebbing tide.  The fustian of "Horatius" gave
him unmeasured delight, and soaked in the yellow flood of Tiber he
would forget the malodorous imminence of Mitchen.

But in the girls of Angel Street he satisfied his need for human
companionship.  They did not bandy the filth of gesture and word which
were the traffic of the boys and which turned him sick, made him
faintly but dismally aware of yawning abysses of uncleanness hidden
from his feet.

So he would sit with the girls at their doorsteps while the boys
shrieked in the entries.  The girls were a willing audience for his
declamations of verse; they accepted Kaspar's reiteration of "But it
was a famous victory" with sympathy and evident pleasure.  When they
realized the full implications of the question,

  _Oh, is it weed, or fish, or floating hair,
        A tress o' golden hair,
        O' drowned maiden's hair?_

they took out their handkerchiefs and wept.

Philip was sitting among the girls cutting out from the advertisement
pages of magazines pictures of ladies with artificially perfected
busts.  The pictures thus obtained were inserted among the leaves of
books and the custom of the possessors of pins was solicited.  Three
pricks among the pages of the books were allowed, with whatsoever
bounty fell to the adventure.

Philip had never quite decided which was the happier state--the being
endowed with pictures of many well-busted ladies, or the possession of
many pins.  The latter at least held the prospect of a service he might
render to his mother, to whom a stock of pins should, he presumed, be
an inestimable boon.  But opulence in pins meant a dearth in busted
ladies--a barren state of affairs only to be remedied by a fresh outlay
of capital.

A "gang" came by whooping.  "Gang" was a popular word in the vocabulary
of Angel Street.  It was sinister with warnings of Red Indians crawling
on their bellies from the pampas beyond Doomington Road.  It evoked
images of Red Signs found on the necks of the murdered daughters of
millionaires.

"Yah! look at Philip Massel!" a voice jeered from the "gang."  Philip
shivered.  He disliked the "gang," he had no point of contact with it.

"Stick-to-my-muvver-an-don't-touch-me!" the voice continued.  The girls
were silent, for chivalry was not a predominant trait in the psychology
of the "gang."  Jessie still bore a black eye inflicted by Barney in
unequal war.  It was Barney took up the cry:

"Philip Massel, Queen-of-the-Girls!"

This was a slogan which appealed to his comrades.  "Philip Massel,
Queen-of-the-Girls!" they reiterated shrilly.  Philip's face was pale.
His hand trembled as he cut the pictures.  The bust of the next lady he
delimitated sadly belied the merits claimed by the advertisement.

"Oo--oo!  'Oo kissed Jessie in the back entry?" Barney howled.

"Philip Massel, Queen-of-the-Girls!" the rest sang in choric delight.
Oh, the black cavernous lie!  Was Jehovah silent?  Philip's eyes
blazed.  He flung his scissors down with a crash.  The further side of
Angel Street rose and sank as he rushed towards Barney.  The rules of
the ring had not yet been studied in Angel Street.  Murderously he
buffeted his fists against Barney's abdomen.  Barney turned green and
subsided.  The rest of the "gang" jumped upon Philip and were
comfortably pummelling him when Reb Monash appeared on the scene.  Mrs.
Levine had lost no time in informing him that a brawl was in progress.
Reb Monash had no doubt it involved those of his scholars who were
already scandalously late for _chayder_.

The "gang" wilted before him.  At his feet lay Philip, gasping and
bleeding.

"Feivele at the bottom of it!" he thundered.  "Oh, a credit thou art to
thy race!  An eight-year old, and this is the sum of thy knowledge!
Come then, I will instruct thee!" and he led Philip sternly home by a
familiar grasp of the brachial muscle between finger and thumb.  Jessie
picked up the scissors ruminatively and turned the pages of the _Strand
Magazine_.


The idea shortly after occurred to Philip that some compromise with his
sex ought to be possible.  It occurred simultaneously with the
appearance in his library of a new type of American hero.  He was now
able to read without difficulty the "bloods" which described with
impartial gusto sandbaggings in the Bowery and the slaughter of
travellers conducted by Poncho-clad desperadoes in the Argentine.
Lurid as the "gang" was in behaviour, their literature was still
extremely tepid.  Intellectually, they had not outstepped Lady
Kathleen's tender limits as laid down in her _Books for the Bairns_,
whereas Philip's heart had for months hovered and exulted with the
hearts of fully-fledged errand boys, twelve and fourteen years old.

But a new hero had crossed the Atlantic.  He was in soul much more
turbulent than the heroes of the conservative school.  His morals,
purely, be it understood, in order to achieve a virtuous end, were even
more elastic.  The terror of his name was even more astounding.  But
all his villainous qualities were kept strictly below the surface,
though, of course, his assistants were as coarse-grained and
blasphemous as tradition demanded.  His manners were so exquisite that
hotel-keepers did not presume to ask for the payment of their bills.
When he slipped from his chambers to undertake a midnight escapade, he
would insert into one pocket his revolver, into another a
silver-mounted bottle of hair-oil.  Whilst his minions were grappling
with the objects of his displeasure and bullet shots ripped across the
shack, he would lift the wick of the lamp in order to manicure his
nails.  His speech was so full of gracious evasions that--that, in
short, he completely captured Philip's heart.

Here was a mode of making artistic capital out of those very qualities
of the young men in Angel Street which so revolted him, whilst at the
same time he would himself accentuate those features of aloof
refinement for which they had dubbed him "bouncer," a word particularly
repugnant to him, accentuate them actually amid deference and applause.

How, then, was a reversal of the Angel Street relationships to be
effected?  Philip hardly knew.  His first discovery was the gratifying
fact that on a certain non-physical plane the "gang" regarded him with
a measure of positive awe.  Not only was he the son of his father, but
he had the Kabbalistic faculty of uttering rhymes, a faculty which
influenced them precisely as a barbarian village might be influenced by
a medicine-man's incantations.  His uprising against Barney had not
been barren of result, though the fierce splendour of it had been
mitigated somewhat by the parental sequel.

But most of the battle was won when, by a stroke of fortune, Philip,
for whom a new hat was long overdue, was supplied with a sample of the
head-gear associated with captaincy from time immemorial.  His new hat
was dowered with a shiny peak and a ribbon splendid with the legend
"H.M.S. IMMACULATE," and when pressed slantwise over Philip's left eye
gave him an air of authority not generally associated with his small
face.  A certain calm persuasive eloquence, assisted by a number of
"alleys," both "blood" and "conker," vastly advanced his cause.  He
read, finally, certain convincing passages from the career of the Dandy
Dave by which not only was Philip Massel's claim to be his European
representative rendered incontrovertible, but it was proved also that
any actual immersion of his own person in the filth of affairs was as
unbecoming to Philip's new dignity as to the dignity of Dandy Dave.

The character Philip now assumed was undoubtedly a composite affair.
Dandy Dave was predominant, but it was not immune from the vocabulary
and behaviour of pirates, explorers, trappers and other species of
emancipated men.  The trapper element did not persist, as shall be
rendered credible.

"Do you see that skunk?" Captain Philip exclaimed to Lieutenant Barney
one day.

"Aye, aye, sir!" replied Lieutenant Barney, "Aye, aye, sir!" being, in
fact, Lieutenant Barney's only and final achievement in the diction of
romance.

The "skunk" was a notorious piebald cat even at that moment slinking
with a torso of fried fish along the yard wall of an empty house where
the "gang" was foregathered.

"'E must be captured!  We shall sell 'is 'ide to the next ship wot
calls at yonder port!"

An exciting chase, which extended over two days, followed.  On the
evening of the second day the corpse of the piebald cat was laid at
Captain Philip's feet.

"Wot now, Captain?" said Lieutenant Barney, whose wavering loyalties
had been steadied only an hour ago by the gift of an india-rubber
sucker.  Philip's heart fluttered a little unquietly.  In the mere
abstract conception of chase there had been much of the poetical.  In
the presence of the dead cat the fogs of illusion thinned.  Shame
tugged at his heart-strings.  But the faultless figure of Dandy Dave
stood before him.  With little knowledge of the implication of his
words, "Flay 'im!" he said harshly.  "The merchants call this morn!"

Lieutenant Barney inserted a broken blade below the fringe of the cat's
eye.  He tugged.  Philip looked down.  The hideous mess which ensued
spattered Philip's brain like a pat of filth.  He ran quickly from the
yard and was violently sick for many minutes....  The trapper aspect of
Captain Philip's authority did not again assert itself.

Behind the Bridgeway Elementary School extended a huge and desolate
brick-croft.  Here the "gang" frequently undertook expeditions to the
Himalayas and the two Poles.  Volcanoes were discovered and duly
charted.  Wide lakes of clayey yellow water were navigated.  It was a
point of honour with the "gang" that the lakes must be definitely
crossed from border to border, not merely circumvented.  But while the
"gang" miserably splashed along and drew their clogged boots to the
further side, Captain Philip serenely walked the whole way round and
from his dry vantage encouraged his men to safety.  It would never do
for the Doomington counterpart of Dandy Dave to smirch his own limbs
alongside of the vulgar herd.

The last episode in the captaincy of Philip was the Liberation of
Princess Lena, the immediate inspiration of which was the gallant
rescue by Dandy Dave of the daughter of the President of the American
Republic from a cellar below the very basement of the White House.

Lena Myer lived in Angel Street and kept irregular hours.  The days of
her flirtations had already begun.  When she returned one evening it
was arranged that the "gang" was to seize her, gag her, and carry her
away to the stable of the lemonade works adjacent to the wire
factory--whither Lieutenant Barney had discovered a secret entrance.
Here for the space of an hour she was to be bound to a support.  The
clattering of horses was to be heard in the courtyard and Captain
Philip, sweeping in magnificently, was to cut her bonds, lay her
captors in the dust and deliver her with a flourish to her distracted
parents.

Of course, Lena herself was not to be informed of the somewhat negative
part reserved for her.  She had already attained her "stuck-up" days,
but her beauty and her father's wealth, (he was a barber), evidently
cast her for the situation.

All fell out as arranged.  As she entered the darkest patch of Angel
Street a black mass fell on her, choked her with rags, and bore her
kicking furiously to the stable, where she was fastened to a wooden
support.  Many desolate minutes passed, during which her moans struck
so heavy a chill into the hearts of the desperadoes that at last they
removed the rags from her mouth.  Immediately such a foul stream of
imprecation fell from her virginal lips, that the bloodthirsty gang
withdrew trembling towards the spider-webbed walls.  She threatened
them venomously with the vengeance of her admirers.  Some one made a
tentative advance in her direction.  She uttered a piercing scream and
he recoiled with knocking knees.  The "gang" had experienced fights
with "gangs" from other streets; the "gang" even had compassed the
discomfiture of a policeman.  But a situation like this, where the
incalculable feminine threw all their generalizations into rout, left
them shorn of philosophy.

"Jem Cohen 'll 'ave your eyes out, yer rotten lot 'er lice!" said the
maiden delicately.

A clatter in the yard beyond the stable, cunningly caused by the play
of two slates on the cobbles, produced sudden silence.  Captain Philip!
A tremendous wave of dislike for Captain Philip swept over his
supporters!  Nobody but a "bouncer" like that Philip Massel could have
involved them in so unnatural a situation.  By crikey!  _They'd_ show
him, by jemmy, wouldn't they just!

Philip rushed into the stable's darkness.

Rigid with hate, Princess Lena lay taut against her support.  With a
fine curve Philip drew the captainly knife.  The braces-and-rope
fetters fell from the lady's limbs.  With the hiss of an escaping
valve, Lena threw herself upon the astounded hero.  Two great scratches
ripped redly down Philip's cheeks.

"Take that an' that an' that' an that!" she howled as she thumped him,
bit him, scratched him, tore his hair.  Then her nerves gave way, and
she sank to the ground, all of a heap, sobbing.

Beyond a scowling, laughing, shaking of fists, the "gang" had remained
passive hitherto, but the moment Lena subsided, with convulsive
unanimity they fell upon their captain.  When at length the sated gang
emerged from the stable, there was no superficial point of resemblance
between Dandy Dave and the quivering youth moaning lugubriously in the
darkness.

Philip had not yet found a key to the Happy Life.  His experiment among
the young gentlemen of Angel Street had doubtless been foredoomed to
failure.  He was not of them.  He had been a "bouncer" and would, in
their eyes, remain a "bouncer" unto the world's end.  They realized
cunningly how he winced when they shouted filthy words after him.
Their experience with Lena Myer had widened their vocabulary, and they
filled the air with enthusiastic impurity as he passed by.  He was
approaching his ninth birthday, but still the little girls of Angel
Street gave him his one illusion of society.

School, too, filled him with leaden ennui.  Miss Green's class was only
a memory of his later infancy.  Miss Tibbet, his present teacher, was a
hopeless automaton.  She wore masculine boots and impenetrable
tortoise-shell spectacles.  When she opened her lips, sound issued;
when she closed her lips, sound did not issue.  Her personality was
capable of no further differentiation.  Nothing happened.  A waking
sleep buzzed in her classroom like a bluebottle.

For his years he was early in Miss Tibbet's class.  There was something
about him which much endeared Philip to the young ladies of ten and
eleven who sat in the same benches.  The emotion at first was one of
somewhat elderly amusement and compassion.  But when Jane Freedman
declared herself in love with him, it became a universal discovery that
Philip lay wedged between the split sections of every heart.  They
brought offerings to him--cigarette cards, jujubes and raw carrots,
(Philip had an unholy appetite for raw carrots).  One day Jane Freedman
waylaid him with a large lump of pine-apple rock.

"Kiss me, and it is yours!" she said.  It was a very large and inviting
piece of pine-apple rock; it had only been slightly sucked, not more
than a taste.  He kissed her.

The other girls promptly waylaid him with larger pieces of pine-apple
rock.  The whole thing really was very unpleasant.  On the other hand
pine-apple rock had its compensation.  Yet Philip developed a great
distaste for humanity.  Boys, at one extreme, were more unclean than
cats, (cats being the predominant fauna of Angel Street, they were a
useful starting point for all philosophy).  Girls, at the other, were
more sentimental than fish.  Pine-apple rock began speedily to pall
upon him.

School was wearying beyond words.  Not a chance gleam of gold filtered
through the pall of cloud.  Miss Tibbet's mouth opened; then it closed.
It would have been an incident, even if you could have seen her eyelids
blink beyond her spectacles.  She taught poetry as she taught vulgar
fractions.  A mad impulse began to seize upon Philip.  He must separate
his own lips further, wider, more hilariously than ever Miss Tibbet was
capable.  Then to deliver himself of one prolonged shout--no more.  One
prolonged shout which would cleave a path through the clouds of
monotony wherethrough the dizzy horses of adventure might come tumbling
from the spacious blue winds beyond.  Not a shout of pain or of
desperation.  A shout merely from the whole capacity of his lungs, a
human shout, a challenge of the body in ennui.

His lips opened trembling.  Miss Tibbet's spectacles swept blankly
towards his face.  He bent down over his paper.  The impulse waxed
within him and became a passion.  He began to say to himself that the
whole future of his life depended upon his courage.  If he did not open
his lips and yell he would be one thing.  If he did open his lips and
yell, he would be another thing, and a bigger, freer thing.  One day he
stretched his jaws to make the effort.  The back of his mouth was
crammed with sand.  He lifted his hand as if to hide a yawn.

A mystic conviction took possession of him.  If he had any value, that
shout would be achieved.  But its agent would be something greater than
himself.  Prepared or unprepared for it, the shout would come, if he
was worthy.

It was a very hot afternoon.  Miss Tibbet croaked at the blackboard
like a machine.  A desultory dog was barking somewhere with insensate
yelps.  The geranium before the closed windows drooped in the heat.
Flies were droning aimlessly.

A huge shout swept suddenly into every corner of the room, slapped Miss
Tibbet's face like the palm of a hand.  There was an intense silence.
All eyes turned to Philip's face, which was flushed furiously red,
unhappy, exultant.

"Philip Massel, stand up!"  He shuffled to his feet.

"Was it you who made that noise?"

"Yes, Miss Tibbet!"

"Why did you make that noise?"

"I don't know!"

"Did somebody stick a pin into you?"

"No!"

"Did anybody stick a pin into Philip Massel?"

No reply.

Here was something entirely beyond Miss Tibbet's experience.

"Will the monitors keep order, please, while I take this boy to the
head master!"

Philip knew that sooner or later he would burst into tears.  But a
great load was off his mind.  He was free, he was free!  For one moment
of dizzy elation a pang of that emotion struck him which long ago made
him tremble on a locker in Miss Green's room before the fateful
question--"Tell me, Philip, which would you rather be, Jew or
Christian?"  The sheer poignancy passed, but something of his elation
remained, even in the cadaverous sanctum of the head master.

Mr. Tomlinson sat ominous in his chair as he listened to Miss Tibbet's
recital.

"Why did you behave in that disgraceful way, Philip Massel?"

"I--I--don't know, sir!"

"What do you mean, you don't know?"

"I don't know, sir!"

"Are you sure it wasn't a pin?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Are you in pain?"

"No, sir!"

"Am I to understand that..."  But Philip's shoulders were shaking.  Big
tears rolled down his face.  He hid his face in a dirty, frayed
handkerchief.  He heard Mr. Tomlinson and Miss Tibbet whispering
overhead.

"The heat..." said one.

"Yes, I should think ... the heat...."

"You may go home, Philip Massel!" said Mr. Tomlinson.  "Tell your
mother to put you to bed at once.  Say I told her she must keep you
quiet.  Don't come to school to-morrow if your head is aching....  And
never let it happen again, young man!  Understand that!"

Philip withdrew.  A grin mingled maliciously with his tears.

A day or two later he was standing contemplatively against the
playground wall during the interval, when he observed Harry Sewelson
approaching.  Sewelson, though he was about a year older, was in
Philip's class.  He lived in a draper's shop some minutes along
Doomington Road.  They had had no commerce hitherto.  Philip made a new
friend with extreme difficulty, and though he realized that there was a
quality in Sewelson, a keenness in his grey eyes, which distinguished
him from the rest, there was a garlic vulgarity about him, a
strongly-flavoured bluster, which, he had learned from Reb Monash, was
inseparable from Roumanian Jewry.

"I say!" declared Sewelson, "I bet you I know what was the matter on
Tuesday!  I bet I know why you gave that shout!"

"_Bet_ you don't!" Philip replied.  He was vaguely proud of the complex
of motives which had induced him to behave in so baffling a manner.

"Nobody pricked you!" Sewelson asserted.

"Right for once!" Philip agreed.

"And you weren't ill!  I bet I know!"

Philip looked up curiously.

"_You just wanted to!_" Sewelson whispered in a somewhat melodramatic
manner.  "You felt you just had to.  You couldn't get away.  You were
sick and tired!"

Philip's brown eyes looked up shyly, with a certain pleasure, with a
certain distrust, into the grey eyes before him.

"You're right!" said Philip.  "It wasn't my fault!"

"I say," Sewelson said, after a pause.  "I say..."  Then he paused
again.

"Yes?" asked Philip.

"I say, what about being pals?"

Philip blushed slightly.  "Let's!" he said.

They walked down the playground with linked arms.

"Oh, yes!" accepted Philip innocently.  "I _do_ think Miss Tibbet is a
narky bitch!"

"Carried _nem-con_!" exclaimed Sewelson, proud of his elegant
introduction of a foreign tongue.



CHAPTER IV

The vicissitudes of school and Angel Street represented only the
secular side of Philip's existence.  The Jewish, the clerical side,
claimed his servitude as soon as he pushed open the door of the house.
The whole day, of course, was punctuated with greater or lesser
ceremonies; but a considerable portion of it, at least of that part not
taken up by school, was spent in his father's _chayder_.  Beyond
_chayder_, to gather together and confirm the saintliness ardently
desired and pursued for him by his father, lay the synagogue in
Doomington Road, the _Polisher Shool_.

The room in which the _chayder_ was housed was distinctly dismal,
despite the fountain of spiritual light playing perpetually there, the
fountain whereof Reb Monash himself was the head.  It lay between the
"parlour," a chilly room upholstered in yellow plush, which was on the
right as you passed into the "lobby," and the kitchen in the recesses
of the house, to enter which you descended two invisible steps.  Beyond
the window of the _chayder_ and beyond the yard, hung a grim,
blank-windowed hat-and-cap factory.

Low forms, where the two dozen scholars were disposed, ran round the
four walls of the room.  Before a table facing the window Reb Monash
sat, in the additional shadow cast by the large oblong of cardboard
which occupied a fourth of the window-space so as to hide the damage
caused by a malicious Gentile stone.  More for minatory gesture than
for punishment, a bone-handled walking-stick lay to his hand, along the
table.  Facing the door a large cupboard stood invariably open.  Here
on the lowest shelf were the Prayer Books, from the first page of which
the youngest scholars learned their Hebrew capitals.  Here also were
the penny exercise books where the scholars proficient in the cursive
script wrote letters of a totally imaginary politeness to their
parents.  "My dear and most esteemed Father and Mother," they ran, "I
am full of concern for your health.  Reb Monash joins me in respectful
greeting.  The High Festivals are approaching, God be thanked, and I
trust the Above One will bless our ways with milk and honey and will
much increase our progeny, even as the sands on the shore.  Believe I
am your to-death-devoted son."

Upon one wall hung a chart where an adventurous red line traced the
forty years' wandering of the Jewish race between the House of Bondage
and the Promised Land.  A portrait of Dr. Theodor Herzl, every feature
cleverly pricked out in Hebrew letters, hung opposite.  There were
enlargements from photographs of Mr. and Mrs. Massel, and portraits of
Heine and Disraeli, which had been hung not without compunction,
although each had made so generous a death-bed recantation of his
errors.

The payment to Reb Monash for a week's tuition ranged between one
shilling and eighteenpence.  He sometimes accepted ninepence, but on
the condition that other parents should not be informed and the market
be thus demoralized.  He even accepted no payment at all, in cases of
extreme indigence, where it meant that a scion of Israel would
otherwise run riot in pagan ignorance.  The attendances of his pupils
were as follows:--In the week-days, a few frantic minutes between
morning and afternoon school for the recital of _minchah_, the midday
prayer, and more importantly, several long hours in the evening; on the
Saturday, once, after dinner.

During the evening session, while the maturer boys were biting their
pens over their letters home, and the boys less mature were
transcribing for page after page a sample line in Reb Monash's own
script, _rebbie_ himself dealt with the infants, five, four, three
years old.  Patiently, gently, the meat skewer he used as a pointer
moved from capital to capital.  (A safe way to win temporary harbourage
in _rebbie's_ good graces was to provide him with a new pointer.)

"_Aleph!_" said Reb Monash.  "_Aleph!_" piped the little voice.

"_Baze!_" "_Baze!_" "_Gimmel, doled!_" "_Gimmel, doled!_"

With the young he had enormous patience.  When at last they knew all
the letters in their consecutive order, his pointer would dart
bewilderingly from letter to letter.

"_Lange mem, tsadik, coff...._"

Ignorance, up to a certain age, Reb Monash could condone.  It was
inattention against which he maintained a fiery crusade.

"What, thou canst not distinguish between _baze_ and _shloss mem_?
Playest thou then alleys already?  Thou art a lump-Gentile, a
_shtik-goy_!"  After the youngsters had been thus instructed, a snap of
his Prayer Book was the signal for a deathly calm.  All the exercise
books were closed and put away upon their shelf.  Everybody sat down
upon the benches round the wall and each face assumed a look of virtue
bordering upon imbecility.  Reb Monash then produced a thin notebook
where in three columns down each page he had written a large number of
Hebrew words.  These words had, excepting rarely, no connection with
each other.  One leaped abruptly from "pepper" to "son-in-law" and
thence to "chair," "snake," "pomegranate" and "yesterday."

Starting with any boy indiscriminately he read out word after word,
receiving an English or Yiddish equivalent.  Here again, to introduce a
complexity, he suddenly interrupted the written order of the words, or,
indeed, himself gave the profane equivalent of the vocabulary and
demanded the "Holy Speech" in return.  With as little warning he
transferred his attention to another of his scholars, and woe upon him
if the black crime of inattention had sent his wits scattering, woe if
his lips could not repeat the word just translated!  A silence intense
as the silence of the antechamber where the High Priest three times
demands from Radames his defence, occupied the breathless _chayder_
during the process of "Hebrew."

Yet for all his sallies and alarms the tragedy of Reb Monash was no
more apparent than in the heart-broken monotone in which he uttered his
list of inconsequent words.  All the ghettoes of Russia had known the
silver of his voice.  If there had been sorrows of Israel none had told
them more poignantly; if Zion still were to raise tall towers, none so
joyfully had prophesied her new splendours.  Still in many synagogues
beyond the _Polisher Shool_ his oratory was in demand.  But the glow of
his old dreams?  Was it because no single reality had called him to
concrete endeavours, that no single dream had found fulfilment?

But all this lay deep down, deeper than himself dared to pursue.

"_Pilpelim?_" "Pepper!"

"_Lo mit a vov?_" "To him!"

"Philip, where holds one?"

"... er ... er..."

"What! thou knowest not?"

"Yes, _tatte_, yes ... _odom_, a man!"

Reb Monash's lips set tight.  Philip's back curved under his father's
fist.  He pressed his head down upon his neck.  He knew that the nearer
he attained to immobility, the sooner would his punishment be over.

Reb Monash sat down again.

"_Roshoh?_" he asked significantly.

"Evil one!"

"_Boruch?_" to point the contrast.

"Blessed!" the voice translated.

And so till "Hebrew" was at an end.  Then followed translation from the
week's portion of the Pentateuch; and perhaps if one or two scholars of
such holy state remained under his care, an excursion into the Talmud.


The combination of Miss Tibbet and _chayder_ left Philip limp with
fatigue and dejection.  Life under Miss Tibbet was clockwork, barren of
adventure and hope.  _Chayder_ was a cycle that each year returned to
the same spot through a round of indignities and petty tyrannies.  All
its nightly incidents were the same as last week's and last year's and
seemed destined to reduplication world without end.  Walls seemed to
rise frowning before him wherever he looked.  It was hard to breathe.
Were these days the pattern of all the days he should ever know, till
he died at last and half-hearted funeral eulogies were uttered over his
coffin?

Yet now and again there were incidents which slightly relieved the
tedium of existence.  As for instance when the notorious Jakey arrived
in _chayder_ about an hour late one stifling summer evening.  Jakey was
in truth a desperate character.  His stockings lay invariably over his
boots, and the boots themselves knew no other fastening than string.
Among the layers of dirt on his face his right eye or his left emerged
livid in purple and salmon hues.  On numerous occasions he had "wagged"
school in order to play pitch and toss with coins, derived who knew
whence? in the company of stalwarts fifteen years old, three years his
senior.

It was in fact during the solemn stillness of "Hebrew" that he arrived.
Upon his appearance the hush was intensified into something acute as
shrill sound or pain.  Slowly, with tight-browed condemnation, Reb
Monash turned his head to the truant.  "So thou art come!" he said.
"Enter! we are incomplete without thee!"  With withering courtesy he
motioned him to the end of a bench.  Nonchalantly moving the tip of his
tongue from one cheek to the other Jakey sat down.

"_Nu_, Jakele, what hast thou for thyself to say?" he asked, still
couchant, as it were, upon his chair.  Jakey for several seconds longer
kept his tongue in his left cheek.  He lifted his brows in interested
contemplation.

"I had the stomach-ache!" he suggested, clasping his hands against his
liver as a piece of convincing by-play.

"_Ligner!_" thundered Reb Monash, "Thou art sound as a Hottentot!"

Jakey withdrew one hand from his stomach, and lifted a thumb to his
mouth.

"My muvver's dying!" he said after further meditation.

Reb Monash quivered with wrath.

"Such a year upon thee!  Long live they mother, but thou, thou art a
proselytized one!"

He advanced to make Jakey more immediately aware of the jeopardy into
which his soul had fallen.  Jakey looked up shiftily, his eyes
watchful.  Reb Monash's fist came down upon empty air.  Swift as a
lizard Jakey darted across to the table.  He stood there, Reb Monash's
bone-handled stick uplifted.  A murmur of horror went round the
_chayder_.  Reb Monash with a shout of anger advanced raging.  And then
it was that his own stick, the symbol of more absolute authority than
the Shah's, was brought down upon his own shoulder.  There was a
silence.  Then immediately a tremendous hubbub filled the room.  Reb
Monash sank into his chair.  A few of the youngest lads lifted up their
voices and wept.  A boy in a corner was giggling nervously.

"Where is he?  Where is he?" asked Reb Monash weakly.  An enormity had
been perpetrated unknown in the annals of _chayders_.  And in his, Reb
Monash's, where discipline and holiness were equal stars.

"'E's ran away!  I seen 'im!" the cry rose.

Reb Monash grimly took up once more his book of Hebrew words.  The long
monotone began again.

"_Ishoh?_" "A woman!"

"_Sachin?_" "A knife!"

The door was flung open.  A storm of flying apron-strings filled the
threshold, and a cloud of loose hair.  It was the mother of Jakey.

"Reb Monash, what is for such a thing?" she demanded indignantly.  "One
might think a policeman, not a _rebbie_.  My poor Jakele, gentle as a
dove, a credit in Israel!  What for a new thing is this?"

Reb Monash lifted his hands deprecatingly.  "What say you, Mrs. Gerber?
An hour later he comes...."

She gave him no time to continue.  "And then to lay about him with a
walking-stick!  A Tartar, not a Jew!  Never a word of complaint from
God or man about my poor orphan and ... to come to _chayder_ ... and a
pogrom!  _Oi, a shkandal_!  A walking-stick like a tree!  A moujik, God
should so help me, not a _rebbie_!  Poor Jakele, crying his heart out
like a dove!  I'll take him away from a so crooked _chayder_!"

"But that concerns me little!" broke in Reb Monash.  "For each one that
goes, come four each time!"  (This confident mathematic invariably
puzzled Philip.  He knew how necessary to the Massel family was an
increased income.  Why should not Reb Monash dismiss his whole
_chayder_ and then automatically increase his clientele fourfold?)

"Like a tree a walking-stick!" continued Mrs. Gerber.  She flounced
through the door.  "Such a year!  Such a black year shall seize you!"
she spat.  The door closed with a loud bang.  It was impossible to sit
down under it.  Not only to have been assaulted, but to be accused of
being the assailant was too much to bear.  Reb Monash took his
skull-cap, his _yamelke_, from his head, placed it on the mantelshelf,
and assumed his silk hat.

"Learn over your passages!" he rapped out as he followed furiously to
the house of Jakey.

There was subdued whispering at first.

"Wot a lark!" said some one.  "Oo--aye!  Wot a lark!" some one else
repeated.  Then every one laughed.  Philip was hilarious.  It really
was too funny--Jakey the dove!

"I've got the stomach-ache, _rebbie_!"

"No you've not, you mean your muvver's dying!"

Some one lifted the walking-stick.  Barney did a _pas seul_ in the
corner.  The gaiety of the situation intoxicated everybody.  Philip was
swept off his feet by the general merriment.  He reached up for his
father's skull-cap, put it on and looked round solemnly.  Barney
imitated Mrs. Gerber with great distinction.

"A moujik, not a _rebbie_!"

At this moment the door opened.  Reb Monash's face looked round
glowering below his silk hat.  Quick as thought Philip covered the
borrowed skull-cap, knowing there was no time to replace it, with his
own cap.  He felt the unfortunate load pressing guiltily against his
head.

Reb Monash took off the silk hat and looked round for the _yamelke_.

"Where's my _yamelke_?" he demanded fiercely.

"Dunno!" a murmur rose.

"Did I not place it on the mantelshelf?"

"Didn' see yer!"

"Dost thou know?"

"No, _rebbie_!"

"Dost thou, Philip?"

"No, _tatte_!"

"Dost thou, Barney?"

"No, _rebbie_!"

"Empty ye out all your pockets!"

The _yamelke_ was nowhere to be found.  It was a very hot evening and
it produced on Philip an unholy delight to see his father sitting there
in the close heat, with bright red carpet slippers, thin black
trousers, a thin alpaca coat--and to crown all, the stately and stuffy
tall hat, malevolent and quite definitely absurd.

It was towards the end of the evening that Philip lifted his cap to
scratch his head over some knotty point in the _chumish_, the
Pentateuch, they were translating.  He had wholly forgotten the
abstracted _yamelke_, so, whilst his own cap fell with a soft slur on
the table before him, the _yamelke_ sat revealed like a toad under a
lifted stone.

Reb Monash looked up.  It was too late to hide the _yamelke_.  Reb
Monash's eyes glinted unpleasantly.  _Chayder_ drew to an immediate end.


The drizzle falling beyond the _chayder_ window next day was like a
curtain of liquid soot.  The interview between Reb Monash and Philip on
the conclusion of last evening's episode had made them both, for
different, for opposite, reasons, very tired.  Philip, though the hard
form where he sat left him at no time unconscious of his wounds, was
only a little more listless than his father.  His mind was too numbed
even to appreciate the exquisite irony of his letter to his "esteemed
and beloved parents."  When the ritual of "Hebrew" recommenced, it was
only with an effort that he suspended the mechanical scrawling of his
pen.  The dirge of question and reply proceeded mournfully, broken only
by the occasional "where holds one?" like the surface of a pond on a
dull day when the fish seem to rise rather to assert their rights than
to satisfy their hunger.  Oh, to get away from it all, mused Philip
dimly.  To where there are trees and grass like Longton Park, but
freer, larger.  To go there alone and to come back to mother, perhaps
with an offering of cowslips, whatever they were.  There would be a
bird there who would sing.  Not like a canary.  He couldn't bear the
singing of canaries.  They reminded him of a pale girl whom he saw
sometimes at a window of the hat-and-cap factory.  She sang sometimes,
like a canary, ever so sweetly, but a captive.  He had once seen a
canary cage hanging on an outside wall.  A great rain-storm had burst,
but the people on the doorstep had gone in, forgetting all about the
bird.  He had knocked at their door and told them, and though the man
had sworn at him, he took the bird in, a sickly sodden mass,
greyish-yellow.  That bird had not sung again.  It uttered only a
little broken cheep each morning when the sun came.  Now out there ...
Oh, what was all this useless droning, droning about ... "_Pilpelim?_"
"Pepper!" ... out there, when the rain came, there would be thick
branches to shelter that singing bird.  He would walk alone, clean,
free.  "Alone I walked, I walked alone."  There was music in that!
"Alone I walked, I walked alone."  Yes of course! the sense was quite
different, but there was something about it identical with his "On
Linden when the sun was low."  "Alone I walked, I walked alone," he
stressed.  "I sat upon a mossy stone," he followed swiftly.  What fun!
That was like real poetry.  He repeated the words, trembling with
delight.

  _Alone I walked, I walked alone.
  I sat upon a mossy stone._

What about that bird?  We must introduce that bird!  "I heard a bird
singing up in the sky."  No, that wouldn't do!  Something was wrong!
Gosh! it was very easy!  Just leave out that "singing," thus: "I heard
a bird up in the sky."  But we can't end there!  "I heard a bird up in
the sky," and ... and ... "He sang so sweet and so did I!"  His thighs
trembled.  His heart stormed.  He had beaten down the walls of
_chayder_; he was away beyond somewhere; he was elected into the
fellowship of poetry; what did Miss Tibbet matter for ever and ever?
Again, again ... how did it go? ... lest he should lose it!  Listen!
Ah, the surge the fullness of it!

  Alone I walked, I walked alone,
  I sat upon a mossy stone.
  I heard a bird up in the sky.
  He sang so sweet and so did I!

Green fields stretching away, trees, stones with soft moss, a bird, a
bird!

"Feivel, where holds one?"

Sickeningly, with the click of a trap, the walls of _chayder_ shut to
about him.  An ecstasy was in his eyes.  A mist of stupidity,
helplessness, obscured their light.  Oh, no! oh, no! he would make no
pretence about it.  He'd not been listening, he'd been away, singing!
... What did it matter?  Let the fist come down on his aching back!
Let the muscles of his arm be pinched and wrenched again.  Listen, oh
listen!

  _I heard a bird up in the sky.
  He sang so sweet and so did I._


He lifted his wide eyes to his father.  In an even voice he said,
"_Tatte_, I've not been listening!"

A thrill of subdued expectance went round the _chayder_.  His enemies
rubbed their grubby hands gleefully.  One or two looked anxious.

But there was no explosion.  In the same even tones Reb Monash said,
"_Nu_, and what hast thou been doing?"

Slowly Philip's sallow face flushed a deep crimson.  Must he tell?
Must he stand there stripped of this new garment which had covered him,
fragrant with spices and touched with the colours of a new dawn?  But
it was the voice not of his own free lips, the voice ordered by some
blind, strong dictate of the heart, that said, "I was writing a poetry!"

A slight sound came from Reb Monash's lips.  It was only dimly anger;
it was also resignation, dismay.  His lips closed.  The fires of his
wrath last night had burned round his son, till at last Philip lay on
the sofa, spent, lightless, like a cinder.  He had thereon turned to
Mrs. Massel who at one stage had ventured to intervene.  Would she like
to see her son stuff his maws with pig; or perhaps grow up to take a
_shiksah_ to his arms?  All that night low sobbing came from the room
where Philip slept.  Even when Reb Monash thought his wife sleeping,
there came an answering moan from her bed as the sobbing of the boy
entered the room like a frail ghost.  Reb Monash turned his eyes upon
his Hebrew notebook.

"Go thou! go thou! go!" he said heavily.  "I'll deal with thee later!"

Philip passed from the room.  The walls of _chayder_ were no more round
him; his head rang again with the poor music he had made.

"Mamma!" he said, bursting into the kitchen, "I've made a poetry!"

"Feivele!" she exclaimed with horror.  "Why art thou not in _chayder_?"

"He sent me out!" he answered, his lips quivering.  "I've been a bad
boy!"

"Then go out into the street!" she said.  "He'll see thee here and say
I'm petting thee!"

He ran out into Angel Street.  The lines were singing in his head.  He
skipped along Angel Street, from the wire factory to Doomington Road
and back again, chanting his lines.  Then Harry Sewelson, his pal, came
into his mind.  He would make use of his unusual liberty to go and tell
him about the "poetry."  He ran breathlessly along Doomington Road to
"Sewelson's High-Class Drapery and Hosiery Establishment."  He passed
through the side non-professional door along a dark lobby to the
kitchen.  Harry sat in a corner reading.

A sudden shame and reluctance overwhelmed Philip.  What was he making
all this fuss about?  Harry would only laugh at him, and why shouldn't
he?

"Hello!" said Harry, "come in!"

Philip came forward.  "What are you reading?" he asked.

"Poetry!" Harry replied.

This put a different complexion on affairs.

"_I've_ just done a poetry!" Philip declared proudly, throwing his
scruples aside.  He had established an affinity with a printed book.

"G-arn!" said Harry sceptically.

"_Emmes!_"

"Tell us then!"

  "_Alone I walked, I walked alone.
  I sat upon a mossy stone.
  I heard a bird up in the sky.
  He sang so sweet and so did I._

There, what d'you think of that?"

"It's not your own!"

"_Emmes adonoi!_"

Harry looked up with warm commendation in his eyes.

"You know," he said, "it's like this feller!"

"Who's that?"

"Oh, this feller's called Tennyson!" he said, turning the leaves.

Philip drew a chair close and together they examined the faded penny
reprint.

"Gosh!" exclaimed Philip excitedly.  "Isn't that spiff!"


If the episode of the profane poem written during the sanctity of
"Hebrew" had rendered Reb Monash sadly and half-consciously aware that
in Philip he had nurtured a son who lay beyond the theoretic and
practical bounds of his knowledge; a son who was so bewilderingly
unlike and unworthy of himself as he had been like and worthy of his
father, and his father had been like and worthy of his grandfather, and
so backward to whichever of the Twelve Tribes had fathered his race--if
the episode of the poem produced in him only fears and doubts, it was
the appearance of Mottele which crystallized for him the difference
between the actual Philip and the Philip of his dreams.

The parents of Mottele had removed to Doomington from a smaller town in
an adjacent county for the specific reason that Mottele had demanded
more adequate instruction in Hebrew.  They had moved even though the
father had achieved a fair clientele as a tailor in the town where he
had settled, whereas the market in tailors for Doomington was already
hopelessly glutted.

At the time when Mottele entered Reb Monash's _chayder_ Mottele had
passed his ninth, and Philip his tenth birthday.  His mother, as she
floated in amply behind the compact figure of Mottele, seemed rather an
exhalation from Mottele than an important author of his existence.  She
was vague and large and benignant as a moon, shining with pale piety
reflected from the central sun of Mottele.  Mottele himself entered as
one doomed only for a short while to range the treacherous zone of the
fleshly.  By an inverse law of gravity, his eyes were drawn upwards to
the ceiling and thence to the mudless floors of Heaven where his elder
brethren, the mediæval Rabbis and the early Prophets, awaited the
quietus to the mundane phase of Mottele's piety.  His general
appearance betokened a rigid aloofness from the vulgar delights of the
body.  Both stud-holes of his waterproof collar were in excellent
condition; the pockets which in most entrants to _chayder_ were
associated with the fecund bulges of boy-merchandise, displayed only a
_sidder_, a Prayer Book, emerging with propriety; his stainless boots
proved that the rapturous puddles of the roadway were unknown of his
fastidious feet.  Upon his head sat a little round peakless cap from
which fell a demure fringe over his forehead.  There was something
sweet and thin, a little sickly almost, in the tender flute of his
voice as it piped to Reb Monash's question a response as innocent as
honey.

Upon Reb Monash Mottele produced an immediate and visible effect.  He
fell naturally into a manner towards him of affection, mingled with
respect.  "Here," he declared, "here truly is a Judaic child!  Just as
at home!  No blackguarding in the streets, and his head never running
this way and that to nothingness and Gentilehood.  A credit to God and
Man!"

Mottele seemed almost audibly to lap up the instruction tendered him,
almost audibly, as a cat audibly laps milk; you might almost see his
sharp little tongue wash round the corners of his mouth to make sure
that no drop of Jewish wisdom should be unabsorbed.  During "Hebrew,"
he sat upon his corner of the form with a rapture of concentration
worthy of some infant mystic vouchsafed the Beatific Vision.  It was
with no vulgar assertion of rights that his claim to one especial end
on one especial form was recognized.  His claim existed merely, and one
might question as easily the claim of Reb Monash to thump the back for
inattention.  There was something both ludicrous and infuriating in the
sight of some hulking fellow of twelve shuffling heavily away from the
sacrosanct seat, as the result of some slight pathetic quiver in
Mottele's eyelids.

Before long Mottele's bark was sailing the deep waters of the
post-Pentateuchal Bible, while Philip's keel was still grinding against
the elementary shingles of the "weekly portion."  Mottele now became
Reb Monash's standard, before which all things else, at but a cursory
reference, were revealed as dross.  The state of Philip's spiritual
health was shown to be perilous in the extreme.  Now too Reb Monash
developed a new theory.

"It is not that Feivel cannot!" he declared bitterly.  "He will not!
It suits him not to be a good Jew!  Regard then Mottele!  There is a
jewel for you, there is an ornament for England, one shakes with
delight of him in the _Polisher Shool_.  One says in looking upon
Mottele that there is hope still for the Hebrew race!  Mottele ...
Mottele ... Mottele! ..."

Day after day the word Mottele droned or thundered in Philip's ears.
All that was stifling in Angel Street and repressive in _chayder_ took
to itself for a name the three syllables of Mottele.  The word began to
lose for him all its physical connotation.  Increasingly it became for
him a symbol of injustice and despair.

Reb Monash had felt hitherto that the child of his dreams, such a child
as would have been a living glory in Terkass, was almost of too
exquisite a lineament for the reality of this godless England.  But
Mottele had undeceived him, for here in the very flesh was a child
actually born in England and yet recalling irresistibly the piety of
his own boyhood in Russia; a child such as he had been himself, at ten
years an intimate of greybeards and an object of almost superstitious
affection and reverence among the old women of the Synagogue.  He would
not confess it to himself, yet there seemed an element of injustice in
the fact that he, Reb Monash, to whom surely, on the grounds of his own
holiness and the uninterrupted holiness of his ancestry generation
behind generation, such a son as Mottele was due, that he should be the
father of so unsatisfactory a child as Philip.  There was much he loved
in Philip.  Because of the very strength of his love for Philip, he
assured himself, he grieved so much to find Philip so far from his
heart's desire.  It was as much a matter of the happiness of Philip's
own soul as of the happiness and credit of himself.  But, he realized,
to display to Philip or to Philip's mother, how deep was his love for
his son, would be tantamount to an offence against God.  It would
sanction the delusion that he accepted Philip such as he was, whereas
the Philip he strove after was far less like Philip than like himself
or Mottele, after which image, with God's grace, he would yet convert
his son.  For there was much, he repeated, he loved in Philip; as for
instance his poetry, his imagination, which, wedded to Jewishness, the
spiritual state called _Yidishkeit_, were a valuable possession, as he,
in his oratory, himself frequently realized.  On the other hand, the
quality of poetry, unhealthily developed, might nourish errors
concerning the primal verity of _Yidishkeit_ which might land him into
the pits of the unclean.  There was a certain quality of the _rational_
which up to a certain limit was likewise a decoration.  It was a
quality which could excellently elucidate a parable or examine an
obscure text with the possible result of throwing upon it a naive and
modern light very entertaining to the elders at the Synagogue; but
again, like all Philip's positive qualities, it had a negative aspect
of the greatest spiritual danger.  It was a God-sent bounty that had
sent Mottele in his way--Mottele, who had imagination, but not to
excess, who was rational, but not unhealthily.  By placing the virtues
of Mottele in a clear light before Philip, by the spectacle of the
affection and esteem which Mottele commanded in the exercise of these
virtues, both in _chayder_ and in _shool_, the increasing contumacy he
had observed with alarm in Philip would be broken down, and a son
worthy of the traditions of Reb Monash adorn his home.

"I hate him!" Philip was saying to Harry, "I hate him!"  His face was
still wet with tears of vexation.  His fists were clenched and his jaws
were set viciously.  He had only escaped that evening by slipping out
through the front door after opening it for a septuagenarian panegyrist
of Mottele.

"He's only a liar and a sucker-up!" he exclaimed.  "He does it for just
what he can get out of it!  Thinks I can't see!  Yah!" he growled in
disgust.

"But listen!" said Harry, "Just listen to this!

  _How could I look upon the day?
  They should have stabb'd me where I lay,
        Oriana--
  They should have trod me into clay,
        Oriana!_

What do you think of that?  Isn't it fine?  He seems to have had a
rottener time even than Mottele's giving you!  But isn't it grand
stuff?"

"Yes, I know, I know!  But tell me what I can do!  I hate him!  I want
to kill him!"

Harry looked up reflectively.  "Kill him?" he asked.  "Stab him where
he lies, Oriana!  That's an idea, Philip!  I can lend you a peashooter.
Or, why not try a gonfalon?  Gonfalons are awfully tricky!"

"You're laughing!" said Philip indignantly.  "I wish you came to our
_chayder_, you wouldn't laugh then, I can tell you!"

"But you talked about killing yourself, didn't you?  Really, I don't
know what to say!  Kill him or try to forget about him!"

"Oh God, God!" said Philip, banging his forehead in despair.  "It's so
miserable!  While I'm being half killed, he sits smiling and wiping his
rotten nose!"

Harry looked up sympathetically.

"Else you could run away and be Two Little Vagabonds!" he suggested.

"Don't want to run away!  He'd swank like one o'clock, the pig!" Philip
said morosely.  "Besides," he added in a slightly altered tone, "don't
want to run away from mother!  She'd be lonely!  Oh, Harry, you're no
help to a chap, you aren't!"

Yet the conversation was not wholly fruitless.  It implanted in Philip
the germ of more than one idea.


"_Rebbie_," said Mottele at dinner one Saturday afternoon, "my uncle,
peace-be-upon-him, died on Thursday, no?  I want to go and join the
_minyon_ at my auntie's house to-night."

"What good art thou at a minyon?  Thou canst not make a tenth!  Thou
art in years still far from thy thirteenth year."

"But all the same it's a _mitzvah_?"

"Ah, true, true!" said Reb Monash, his eye full of benignant
appreciation.  "Go thou then.  Thou art no big one and they will make
room for thee.  Bring thou in the best bread thou hast forgotten,
Chayah," he said turning to his wife.

She rose and entered the parlour where Reb Monash kept the "best bread"
locked in the sideboard.  She placed the bread dutifully before her
husband.  It had latterly become the custom for Mottele to join the
Massel family for dinner on the Sabbath mid-day.  Reb Monash felt that
his punctilious washing before meals, his prayers before food and his
evident appreciation of the long blessing after food, could have
nothing but the most exemplary effect upon Philip.

Philip writhed inwardly to find Reb Monash cut a couple of slices of
the "best bread" (so dignified because the flour was of a slightly
superior brand and was varnished and sprinkled with black grain), one
for Mottele and one for himself.  The "second bread" lay at the other
end of the table for the consumption of his mother, of Channah and, of
course, of Philip.  The treatment meted out respectively to Mottele and
himself in _chayder_ had inured him to indignity.  This seemed,
however, an unnecessary slight upon his mother, even if she was only a
woman and therefore somewhat beyond the pale of masculine courtesies.

"As for thee, Feivel," said Reb Monash, "after dinner thou wilt stay
indoors to say over to thyself the week's portion, while I take my few
minutes' sleep.  It was badly said by thee in _chayder_ on Thursday
evening.  Thou didst halt three times, four times.  When wilt thou
learn to say it like Mottele?  It was like a stream running, Chayah,
the way Mottele said it, so clear, oh, a pleasure!"

Mottele's eyes were turned ceilingwards in a direction which had become
habitual with him during the chanting of his praises.  Praise produced
in him no tremor of self-consciousness.  It was his due.  Being a good
Jew had, there was ample authority, its celestial reward, but that did
not render superfluous a certain meed of appreciation in this lesser
mundane state.

It might be remonstrated here that Mottele displayed in abundant
measure the qualities of "priggishness" already repudiated as an
essential element in Philip's character.  To which allegation the only
reply must be that "priggishness" simply does not meet the Mottele
case.  "Priggishness" is a word defining a totally different collection
of qualities; those persons to whom Mottele was a delight, and they
were many, might have admitted that he was distinguished by a sort of
precocity, but they felt this precocity definitely to demonstrate how
pleasant an odour was Mottele in the nostrils of the Lord, Whose
providence had caused Rebecca to conceive at the premature age of
three, the youthful Rabbi Achivah to develop the beard of senility in
the course of a single night, and Mottele to be the thing he was.
Those persons, on the other hand, to whom Mottele was more a stink than
an odour, and it is to be regretted that Philip was one of these, would
have laughed with pale scorn at the idea of disposing of Mottele as a
"prig," Mottele, whose sweet face was a cauldron of infamy and whose
voice was harsher than a Hell hag's lament over an escaped soul.

"But, _tatte_, can't I just go out to the corner of Angel Street?"
asked Philip mournfully.  He knew instinctively that utterance of the
possibility put it effectively out of court.

"Thou wilt not go!  Have I not spoken?  Enough!  _Nu_, Mottele, when
thou goest to study in the Yeshivah, thou wilt come to see me, yes?"

Mottele began ingeniously to pun upon the word Yeshivah.  Reb Monash
beamed with delight.

"Well," said Reb Monash, when the carrot and potato dessert had been
cleared away, "I go to sleep.  One will see thee in the afternoon
_shool_, Mottele, for _minchah_, eh?"

"God being so good, Reb Monash!"

"And forget thou not, Feivel!  Not a foot into the street or thou wilt
see then!"

"But Monash," broke in Mrs. Massel, "see how it is a fine day!  Can't
he just go out and get some air in the street?"

"So thou must take his part, Chayah, _nu_?  It will not harm him to go
without air.  The Torah if he will imbibe will do him more good!"

"_A guten Shabbos!_" said Mottele quietly as he slid through the door,
"A good Sabbath!"  Philip looked towards him in a passion of dumb hate.
Mottele halted for the fraction of a moment with a trace of virtuous
aloofness and a slightly lifted head.  There followed a quick flash of
vivid red thrust through his teeth, and the door closed softly behind
him.

"I'll show him!  I'll show him!  I'll show him!" the words pealed
through Philip's head.  "The devil!  I'll give it him!  Oh, s'elp me if
I don't!"

"To thy _chumish_ then!" said Reb Monash as he climbed the stairs.

Philip sat down on a dusty form in the deserted _chayder_.  He turned
to a chapter in Genesis and started mumbling aloud.  He mumbled on to
the end.  He repeated the portion again, having already ascertained
that his knowledge of it was as thorough as his knowledge of anything
could be.  He repeated it stupidly a third and a fourth time.  He knew
that his father would be sleeping for an hour--no more, no less.  Was
he to go on mumbling and mumbling for a hot solid hour?  Oh, what did
it all mean, this soupy stuff, what sense had it, what poetry?

He remembered with a qualm of longing a line or two Harry had found
somewhere:

  _O Brignall banks are wild and fair
    And Greta woods are green...._


But this! ... mumble, mumble, mumble, that's all it was ... rubb-ish!
as Miss Tibbet used to say.  What!  Rubbish?  Oh, sinful thought!  He
laid his fingers dismayfully against his sinning lips.  After all,
Mottele had nothing to do with the inception of the Bible; neither had
father, for that matter.  The Bible was something awful and unutterable
and it was...  Oh, there weren't any words for it!  And he'd said
rubbish!  Yet God would understand he hadn't really meant it.  Besides,
if God were a young boy kept in mumbling all a Saturday afternoon, He
might say unfortunate things about the Bible, even though He's written
it all Himself.  But how close it was in here!  What a headache he had!
He wasn't supposed to go into the kitchen and talk to his mother.  But
it was stuffy, horribly stuffy ... and he knew every word in his
_chumish_ seven times over.  Oh, not so well as Mottele, oh, no, oh,
no!  That wasn't to be expected!  Did anybody know anything so well as
Mottele?  How he hated Mottele!  He knew that poetry was beginning to
have a hold over his affections second only to his mother.  But he
didn't love poetry half so passionately as he hated Mottele.  That
reminded him.  _He_ wasn't going to let Mottele stick his tongue out at
him, after Mottele had polluted the house with his presence at dinner.
No, he'd first cut his throat three times, that he would!

Where was it now, where was it?  He hunted about in his pockets.  One
possession, and not for intrinsic reasons, Philip prized above all
others.  It was a smooth chip, several inches long.  Some months ago
now he had determined to assure himself of some record of the
indignities heaped upon him, directly or indirectly caused by Mottele!
The idea of the notched stick was very popular with the heroes of
romance.  Yes, that would be just the thing, a notched stick!  His
stick was already notched all the way down one side and well down the
other.  Oh, yes, it was in the left trouser pocket!  Strictly he wasn't
supposed to transfer anything from his weekday to his Saturday pockets.
Nothing must be carried on a Saturday.  But he could not afford to be
without his notched stick even on Saturdays.  It was the only thing
which maintained in him a degree of sanity when some peculiarly
injurious comparison had been made between Mottele and himself.  He
clutched t grimly inside his pocket and assured himself of some
ultimate and lurid vengeance.  Torture perhaps, some form of slow
assassination during which Mottele was all the time precisely aware of
the assassin.  "Kill him!" Harry had suggested.  What was that phrase
of Channah's? ... "Many a true word's spoken in jest!"

He hardly dared to notch the stick while it was still Shabbos.
Besides, his knife was in his weekday trousers.  He'd not forget ...
But this headache!  Father would be safely sleeping for a time yet.
He'd just creep along the lobby tip-toe and see what his mother was
doing.

"Mamma, Mamma, hello!"  She was sitting in the meagre light of the
window.  The kitchen around her was scrupulously clean.  A pair of
cheap steel-rimmed spectacles lay on her nose; she was reading the
Yiddish version of the Bible, intended especially for women.

"Fievele," she said, "thou shouldst be repeating thy _chumish_ now,
thou shouldst not be here!"

"I've got such a headache, Mamma," he murmured clasping his forehead
with a somewhat exaggerated gesture.  "I want to go out for a minute or
two!  I'm stuffed!"

"But he said 'no'!"

"I've finished now.  I know it all.  What more can I do?"

"Thou must not think of it!"

"Ah, let me," he said appealingly, "only a minute or two!"

"What will he say to me, Feivele?  Better go not!"

"Oh, I'll be back straight away!  Or I'll tell you what; you stand at
the front door, and when he starts getting up wave your hand and I'll
be back in a jiffy, long before he's down.  Ah _do_, Mamma!"

"If thou hast a headache it is best for thee to be outside!" she said
uneasily.  "Go then.  But forget not the moment I wave to thee, thou
art back!"

Philip darted to the door.

"One second!" she said, "here's an apple for thee!  I got just one--for
thee!"

"What a lovely Mamma!  Thank you, thank you!"

It was a forlorn little figure stood at the Angel Street corner of
Doomington Road.  He saw the crowded tram-cars go up the road towards
an urban simulation of moorland called "Baxter's Hill."  But beyond it
green, real country began ... and there was a river ... He saw the boys
of Angel Street playing games with a positively weekday enthusiasm.  He
had wanted particularly to go and talk about Tennyson and things with
Harry this afternoon!  How much luckier a lot had been cast for Harry!
There was a genial, vaguely terrifying unorthodoxy about his parents
which sometimes verged upon the license of the sheerly Gentile.  They
carried money on Saturdays!  Mrs. Sewelson put the kettle on the fire
with her own hands on Saturdays.  But he wouldn't change his own mother
for a hundred anybody-else's mothers, he vowed, his eyes softening, his
teeth biting into the apple she had given him.

Would it be congenial to bite Mottele!  No! that was girlish--and he'd
have such a sweet, nasty taste.  No! he'd just pommel him, the "dog's
body" (he had heard the phrase on the lips of Lena Myer in description
of a young gentleman who had transferred his attention from Miss Myer
to another lady).  Ah, one minute!  What was that Mottele had said
about going to attend a prayer-for-the-dead meeting at his auntie's
house?  Gosh!  Here was an idea!  S'elp me if Mottele wouldn't have to
attend his own prayer-for-the-dead meeting!  By heaven, Mottele had
gone far enough!  It was about time he got some of his own back!

Surely, Mother was waving!  Oh, yes, certainly she was!  He doubled
back like a rabbit surprised on the edge of a thicket.  When his father
entered the room he was safely mumbling away.

"Feivel, thou art panting!" said Reb Monash suspiciously.

"I've been crying!" replied Philip sullenly.

"So?  Well, let me hear what thou dost with thy _chumish_ now!  Mind
not one mistake, or thou wilt not stir from the house after _Shabbos_
one step!"

Philip recited the portion with flawless accuracy.  The week was duly
ushered in with the night service of the Sabbath.  It was dark when
Philip made his way along Doomington Road and turned to the right past
the Bridgeway Elementary School along the side of it skirted by
Blenheim Road.  The road led to a slightly loftier stratum of
Doomington, past gloomy brick-crofts which rose into the muddy hills on
one side and sank into clayey pools on the other, and it was along this
road that Mottele was bound to pass after the service on his return
home.  Force of habit would lead him along the right side, from which
the ground sloped downwards.  Rain brought the yellow mud sluicing from
the hills on the opposite side, rendering it therefore unpalatable for
such delicate boots as Mottele's.

The red tongue of his enemy, a slight enough offence in itself, but by
accident a consummation of so much preceding injury, had gone more
venomously to Philip's heart than Mottele had intended.  Disregarding
the unwisdom of soiling his Saturday suit, Philip lay down to begin his
vigil.  Mottele was a long time in arriving.  No doubt, Philip mused,
he was sucking in the praise due to him for gratuitously walking up to
Longton to take part in the service.  Philip passed his fingernail down
the notches in his stick.  Twenty-five, twenty-six ... a dull anger
stupefied him ... twenty-nine ... One after one in gibbering disorder,
the occasions immortalized on the notched stick recreated themselves in
his mind.

"Mottele, oh, an Israel glory is Mottele!"

"Mottele, Mottele, Mottele! ..."

Curse Mottele ... the "dog's body"!  And here was Mottele turning round
the bend in the road, his detestable little figure caught in the rays
of a lamp.  Good, good!  He was bound to pass that way.  He slid his
body a couple of yards cautiously.  That brought him nearly to the deep
part of the pond ... Two feet deep, at most, but that would do!  Ah,
glory to God, here he was!

It was over surprisingly quickly.  He rushed out upon the unsuspecting
Mottele, fell upon him and dragged him irresistibly over the edge of
the pavement towards the pond.  They swung there for a moment or two
against its edge.  Philip felt Mottele's fingers tighten in his hair.
Mottele seemed to remove not only his cap but half his scalp.  The next
moment Mottele lay squelching in the ooze.

"Yah, Israel's glory, how d'you like that?  Yah, dog's body!"

There was a spluttering.  Then in Yiddish, "The God of Abraham, Isaac
and Jacob will show thee!"  In English followed, "Yer bloody bastard!"

But a sudden and ghastly fear had gripped Philip.  A realization of the
enormity of his crime possessed him.  He swept the grass blindly for a
cap, lifted it, and ran down the Blenheim Road, his heart thumping in a
tumult of dismay.

He had been in the house for about twenty minutes when Reb Monash
asked: "Feivel, whose cap art thou wearing?"

Philip took his cap off.  With a grimace he discovered it was
Mottele's.  He'd know sooner or later anyhow.  It was quite useless to
lie about it.

"Mottele's!" he replied.

"Where didst thou get it?"

No answer.

Threateningly, in crescendo:

"Where didst thou get it?"

"Found it!"

"Where?  Say thou where, at once!"

There was a loud knocking at the door.  Reb Monash remained in
ignorance but a few seconds longer.  A deputation poured into the
kitchen.  It consisted of two or three women, an old man gabbling
indignantly, the father of Mottele, the mother of Mottele, and in her
arms, swathed in a shawl, the soaked, screaming Mottele himself.

"It is well!" said Reb Monash shortly.  "It is well!" he said quietly
and grimly.  "You may go!  We shall be happy together, Feivel and I!"
he added with acid humour.

Philip was conscious of the strained white face of his mother staring
from the candle-lit gloom of the scullery.  He didn't mind these things
himself so fearfully much ... but somehow she never seemed able to get
used to them ... ah well, he'd had his whack ... the sooner it was over!



CHAPTER V

Not the most enthusiastic observer could have foretold the growth of a
friendship between Philip and Mottele.  On the other hand, Reb Monash
regarded with some alarm the growing relations between his son and
Harry Sewelson.  He was not wholly satisfied that a sound Jewish
atmosphere ruled in the Sewelson household, but his own path and theirs
were too far apart for any accurate ascertainment.  Though they did not
live far away the Sewelsons were neither relatives nor _landsleit_; and
it was a fact that _landsleit_, that is, folk who have emigrated from
the same region or township in Eastern Europe, knew more of each
other's affairs though they lived at opposite ends of Doomington, than
folk who had originated from different provinces of the Exile, even
though these lived in the same street.  He remembered with a certain
dismay how upon the first occasion that Philip had invited his friend
to Angel Street, Sewelson had instinctively removed his cap upon
entering the kitchen--an act which, perversely enough to non-Jewish
minds, is not merely bad manners in an orthodox Jewish house, but
positively savours of sin.

Harry had sat there quietly, but his grey eyes keenly observant.  He
had entered the conversation, however, with a certain fertility of
Yiddish vocabulary and idea which more nonplussed Reb Monash than won
him over.  When he sat down to bread and butter and tea with Philip,
his prayer-before-food was so rapid and brief a mumble as to suggest
either ignorance or contempt.

"It likes me him not, this young man!" declared Reb Monash with some
anxiety.  But there was not at this time any specific reason for
forbidding the friendship between the two lads; so that when _chayder_
and _shool_ left room for the dissipation, Philip was away up
Doomington Road and in the kitchen beyond the Drapery and Hosiery
Establishment.

"I don't know what it is," Philip was saying, "I don't know what it is
about poetry.  Somehow, you can get away with it.  It's like a ... it's
like a road, isn't it?  You start in Angel Street and you start walking
and hey, hullo! where are you?"

"You're right and you're wrong!" declared Harry.  He was now a mature
man of twelve, and in ways more or less subtle was fond of rendering
the disparity of a year between them apparent to Philip.  "It's more'n
that, I think.  It can take you away, but it can keep you there as
well.  You understand better what it all means.  You understand, that's
what poetry means!" he declared solemnly, his face assuming an aspect
of such inscrutable wisdom as Philip might or might not penetrate.

"I can't understand!" said Philip morosely.  "It's too big to try.
Besides I _don't_ want to understand, so there!  It's rotten, the whole
thing's rotten, _chayder_ and Angel Street and _shool_ and the lads and
everything.  I hate it all and I don't want to understand it.  I just
_feel_ that poetry's nice, a million times nicer than all this
everywhere...."  He pointed comprehensively beyond and round the walls
of the kitchen to include the whole of life as it presented itself to
him.

"What a girly-girly word, nice!" scoffed Harry.  "You ought to be
careful what words you say or you'll never get a scholarship.  Poetry
is not nice--it's splendid, and magnificent and all that sort of thing.
_Nice_!  Ugh!"

"Well, you know what I mean!" said Philip uncomfortably.  The tendency
to jibe at him was a somewhat distracting trait that had manifested
itself in his relations with Harry.  The wholly undefined idea stirred
vaguely within him that Harry treated him somewhat as he treated
poetry--as something out of which he could make intellectual capital,
something to make use of--like chewing gum which you kept on chewing
and chewing until there wasn't any more chew in it, and then you just
stuck it under a chair and forgot about it.  But he speedily shook off
ideas of this disturbing kind.  Life was already sufficiently
complicated without mixing it up with silly old bogeys which led
nowhere.  Moreover, his friendship with Harry was worth it, if only for
the sake of discussing poetry.

"Poetry makes you _feel_ funny!" said Philip.  "It's nicer'n singing or
pictures.  It doesn't let you think at all ... I mean thinking like
thinking out sums about how many herrings in a barrel at twelve and
sixpence what's one and a half next week!  See?"

"There's thinking and thinking!" Harry postulated.  "There's thinking
about herrings and a half--and thinking about philoserphy!" he declared
pompously.

"Philwhaterphy?" asked Philip with a mixture of scepticism and
reverence.

"Philoserphy!"

"Whatever does that mean?"

"Oh, knowing all about things upside down!"

"What's that got to do with Tennyson?" Philip asked smartly, as if he
had rather scored a point.

"Tennyson never says anything at all about jography or mensuration.  I
suppose he forgot all about 'em when he left school!" Philip continued.

"That shows all you know!  Philoserphy is something bigger'n jography.
Got nothing to do with it!"

"What's Tennyson's philoserphy?"

"Oh, it's better to be an Englishman than a Chinee!" Harry decided,
expanding his bosom with vicarious patriotism.

"I like carrots more'n cabbage!  Is that philoserphy?" asked Philip, in
some slight fear of his intellectual patron.

"There's a lot more in it, too!" replied Harry somewhat uneasily,
disregarding his friend's levity.  "In the spring a young man comes out
all spots and goes and gets married!  There!"

"Humph!  I s'pose there's lots of philoserphies and things in
Tennyson!" agreed Philip, not wholly convinced.  "But I like poetry
because it's ... because it's got ... Oh, I don't know what to say!
_You_ know!"

"Well anyhow, _I_ know why I like poetry!" Harry insisted.

"You know the song we're singing in school?  It goes:

  _Come unto these yellow sands,
    And then take hands.
  Curtsey'd when you have and kissed,
    The wild waves whist!_


"Now when they're all singing it, I hate singing it.  It all gets lost
in twiddly-bits.  I just _say_ it, slowly, and not listening to the
class.  See how it goes, like kids dancing at Mother-Ice-cream's organ,

  _Come unto these yellow sands!_

and then you all sort of stop a minute and go slowly, like drilling,
only beautifuller.

  _And then take hands!_

And have you ever seen what a lot of 'w's' there is in that line.  Just
listen:--

  _The wild waves whist!_

I wonder if that's done on purpose?"

"Of course it is!" Harry said with a note of superiority in his voice.
"That's what they call 'alliteration!'  They have a dictionary and put
down all the nice words beginning with one letter and then they start
writing poetry.  It's very clever!"

"Yes, it is _too_ clever!" agreed Philip, embarrassingly conscious of a
whole field of technical difficulty yet to be ploughed before attaining
the happy position of a Tennyson.  "Now she didn't tell us who wrote
that poem?  Who was it?"

"That _poetry_!" stressed Harry, with an ironic reminiscence of an
error not long thrown over by his friend, "was by William Shakespeare.
Better than Tennyson they _do_ say!"

"Better than Tennyson!" Philip repeated with something of horror at the
irreverence.  "But Tennyson was a _Lord_!"

"Well, Lords are not everything!  Some Lords' grandfathers were just
beer-house men!" exclaimed a democratic Harry.

"What was this Shakespeare, anyhow?  I think we used to do a recitation
by him all about stiffening the sinews, didn't we?"

"He was in a stable, and pinched rabbits from a woman called 'Lowsy
Lucy'!  That's _his_ life story!"

"And yet he wrote all that about coming to these yellow sands and then
holding hands!  But he can't really be better than Tennyson.  He never
wrote those lines about hollyhocks.  Do you remember?  Like this:

  _Heavily hangs the hollyhock,
  Heavily hangs the tiger-lily!_

Those are the beautifullest lines all over anywhere!"

"A bit of a tongue twister, eh?  Makes you pronounce all your aitches
like "hammer hammer hammer on the hard high road!" Harry blasphemed,
twinkling.

"Oh don't, don't!" exclaimed Philip, a catch of pain in his voice.

"Anyhow there isn't any philoserphy in those lines!  And you don't know
what hollyhocks are?  How can you like the lines?  It's swank!"

"I don't know!  It might be because I don't know, I like the lines.
But I _do_ know it's a flower; and when I see the real flower I'll be
glad to see it.  But it's got nothing to do with the poetry.  That's
just by itself:

  _Heavily hangs the hollyhock,
  Heavily hangs the tiger-lily!"_


"Never mind, never mind!" said Harry sapiently, "you'll grow older some
day!"

"I wonder!" mused Philip.  "But look here, what's the time?  Crutches!
Half-past eight!  Got to be in bed at nine!  So-long, Mr. Philoserphy!"

"So long till next time!" returned the sage, settling himself down to
his book.  "_O revower!_"


As Philip ran along Doomington Road he could not help halting at the
floral establishment half-way home which recently had initiated a
forlorn crusade against the artistic apathy of the neighbourhood.
Already, it was evident, the high ideals of Madame Smythe, Floriste,
were being tarnished by the rust of compromise.  She had opened her
establishment with a blaze of purely floral splendour.  There were rose
trees entering into bloom, lilies, bunches of garden flowers,
democratic pots of geranium and fuchsia, tall tulips, narcissi; and as
a subfusc groundwork, wooden boxes of bulbs, manures, weed killers,
syringes and packets of seed.  It was not long before young vegetables
were introduced, ostensibly on the ground that vegetables such as
potatoes and peas had a floral as well as a dietetic significance.  And
now hoary potatoes, full-grown carrots, unblushing turnips, made an
almost animal show among the fragility of creeper and flowers.

None the less Madame Smythe's shop was the nearest thing to poetry in
the concrete that Philip had yet encountered.  Not a day passed but
that Philip on his return from school flattened his nose against the
floristic window-pane, his eyes dazzled with delight, albeit
calceolaria and hyacinth equally were mere words to him.

One day he observed that a new glory arose from Madame Smythe's tallest
and most expensive vase.  It took the shape of three flowers which he
had not seen before (he had not seen them for the reason that Madame
Smythe opened the shop in spring, and the new-comers were autumn
flowers).  They were fluffy masses of numberless soft yellow petals,
bending slightly on their stalks like a gracious and lovely woman.  Oh,
the rapture of burying a nose in these fragrant sweet cushions, the
rapture of seeing one of them upon his mother's blouse till her own
brown eyes caught additional gold from the gold of these blooms!

  _Heavily hangs the hollyhock,
  Heavily hangs the tiger-lily,_

he murmured.  Ah, the scrumptious hollyhocks!  That's what they were of
course!  Hollyhocks!  "Heavily hangs the hollyhock!"  That's just what
these flowers were doing!  He had no sooner coupled the name with the
flower than by the easiest process in the world the flower and the name
became one.  No wonder Tennyson wrote poetry about hollyhocks!  Just
look how each little petal curled so exquisitely, each petal fresh as
morning, yet chiselled finely into perfect form!

"Wouldn't it be spiff to buy a hollyhock and give it to mother, saying
(as one always said in romance), 'For the Fairest!' then bowing
gallantly!" he mused.  "What can I do?  I get a ha'p'ny a week, when
I'm good, from father.  I'll be good for three weeks.  That'll be
three-ha'pence.  Then I'll go in and buy a hollyhock.  Oo, what fun!"

The second and third halfpennies were added to the first, not without
depressions in the barometer of virtue.  He shyly entered the shop of
his ambitions.

"Can I have a hollyhock, please, ma'am!"

"_A hollyhock_?  I'm sorry, young man, we don't keep no hollyhocks!"

A look of grievous disappointment came into Philip's face.  His voice
trembled.

"But please, ma'am," he said, "you've had some hollyhocks in the window
and somebody's bought 'em and now you've got some more hollyhocks!"

"Gracious! what can the young man want!  We ain't got no hollyhocks!
Just show me what you mean!"

Philip approached the lattice-work which separated the shop from the
shop window.  He pointed to the vase where his hollyhocks bloomed rich
and desirable.

"One of those hollyhocks, please!" he said.

"Hollyhocks!" she snorted.  "Hollyhocks!  Haw, haw, haw!  Lawks!
Them's chrysanthemums!  Haw, haw, haw!"

Philip's disappointment deepened.  It was the glamour of the word no
less than the actual flower that had drawn his feet to pilgrimage.  But
Madame Smythe had lifted the vase of chrysanthemums from the window.

"One, did you say?" she inquired, resuming business.

"Yes, one, please!" he assented, with trepidation.

"Here you are, sir, thank you!"

He opened his hands where the halfpennies lay warm and wet.  He placed
his three coins on the counter.

"What!" she snapped, somewhat dangerously.  "Sixpence, if you please!"

"I--I--I'm sorry!" he said weakly and blushing violently, "I'm sorry!
I haven't got any more!"

"Go home!" said Madame Smythe more genially, melting as she perceived
the lad's embarrassment.  "Go home and tickle your fat aunt!  Tell her
I told you!"

Now even if they weren't hollyhocks, and he reflected bitterly that he
had had no warrant for calling them hollyhocks, he wasn't going to be
humiliated in this way.  No! not even if they cost ninepence, let alone
sixpence.  No, he was going to buy a hollyhock, that is to say a
chrysanthemum, for his mother, even if he died for it!  How could he
get sixpence?  An appalling sum, on the further side even of avarice,
but he was going to get it, and he already had three-ha'pence, anyhow!

Another three weeks of comparative virtue swelled his total to
threepence.  Two separate ha'p'nies from his sister Dorah (who had been
married for years and lived up in Longton), and he was worth fourpence.
It was a point of honour not to receive the slightest subsidy from his
mother towards her own gift.  A ha'p'ny borrowed from Harry and
three-ha'pence from the sale of an enormous number of Dandy Dave's
chronicled exploits brought him the desired total.

He marched boldly into Madame Smythe's establishment.  "One
chrysanthemum, please!" he demanded.

"Come again, Johnny, eh?  Got the money this time?"

"Of course I have!"

"Hoity-toity!  All right, my lord!"

"Here you are, ma'am!" he said, as he received the flower wrapped in
tissue-paper and handed over his coins.

"I say!  I say!  Mr. Rich!  You've given me too much!"

"But you said sixpence!"

"Oh, that was weeks ago!  They're cheaper now; they're only threepence!"

He was sickened to think he had allowed the extra weeks to pass by thus
unchrysanthemumed.  "Give me another!" he demanded haughtily to
convince Madame Smythe of his superiority to all consideration of money.

The kitchen was crowded when Philip entered with his flowers and he
slipped in unnoticed to join his mother in the scullery.

"Mamma," he said shyly, "I've brought you a present all for yourself!"

"Oh, Feivele, sweet child, how lovely!  But the money, where didst thou
get the money from?"

"I've been saving up, Mamma.  But never mind about that!  You've got to
take these flowers and wear them on your blouse!"

"But I can't, Feivele!  It's not right a married woman should wear
flowers.  Knowest thou not a Jewish woman must not wear her own hair?
How then shall I wear flowers?  And what will thy _tatte_ say?  I
can't, my child!"

"Oh, Mamma I've been saving up for such a long time just to buy 'em for
you.  And now you don't want 'em.  It's rotten, it's real rotten of
you!"

"I do want them; see, look where I put them in this jar.  They'll be
here a long time, while I'm standing in the scullery, washing up and
peeling potatoes.  And when they're dead, Feivele, they'll still be
living inside me.  Dost thou understand?  Thou art a good child!" she
said, "God bless thee!"  She bent down and kissed his forehead.

... It was memories such as these and such chance snatches of poetry
that kept Philip that evening against the window-pane of Madame Smythe,
Floriste, for many contemplative minutes.  Nine o'clock had passed when
at last he entered the kitchen of Number Ten Angel Street.

"Regard the hour!" said Reb Monash.  "Thou hast been squandering the
hours with Sewelson!  It likes me not that Sewelson!  What about thy
scholarship!  Thou shouldst have been in to-night studying for thy
scholarship after _chayder_.  Much success thou wilt win!"

"Oh, I forgot about the scholarship!" said Philip apologetically.
"_Emmes, tatte_, I'll be in all to-morrow night studying the history
book!"

"Well, we shall see then!  Go to bed now, at once!  Good night!"

"Good night all!"


Philip had recently been chosen as one of the candidates for the
Doomington School Scholarship Examination by the master of Standard
Seven, whither Philip's talents in "Grammar and Composition" had
brought him with unusual rapidity.  Reb Monash was delighted that his
son was progressing at least along the road to Gentile scholarship.
His experience contained the records of several young men whose earlier
years had been devoted to the mastery of secular knowledge, which, in
due time, only turned them with the more zeal to Jewish wisdom, whereto
all other accomplishments were but footnotes and commentaries; these
young men had actually been enabled through their Gentile wisdom to
study the Bible and the Talmud from a new, and sometimes from a
broader, point of view.  He himself could read English well and was no
mean scholar of the Russian and German literatures.  In addition to
which, of course, was his profundity in Hebrew lore, which gave him an
honoured position among the very circle of the Rabbis.

"It will do him no harm!" said Reb Monash.  "If he will be like Moishe
Nearford I will not be displeased.  You know Moishe Nearford, the Long
One?  Not only was he high in Doomington School but he went on to the
university where one respected him, God and Man.  And yet a Jew is he,
a perfect one.  Never goes out with any other girl, only his sister
you'll see on his arm, week after week.  A real Jew, say I, and a real
brother!  And what about Moses Montefiore?  He would stand up in the
House of Parliament while one talked of taxes and India and face the
East and start shaking himself over his _davenning_!  But let him be
like Moishe Nearford, let alone Moses Montefiore, and I am content!"

So it came about that a tacit understanding existed for the next few
months between Reb Monash and Philip that the old Spartan devotion to
_chayder_ and _shool_ was temporarily not expected from him.  It was
not in the least that Reb Monash deviated one whit from the ideal by
whose pattern he had determined to shape Philip; nor that Philip found
one whit more congenial the ideal thus created, an ideal so near to
Mottele as by that reason alone to be repugnant.  It was, to simplify
the issue, a state of truce.

During this period, while Philip was reading for his own examination,
Harry was elected to a scholarship, not indeed to the older foundation
of Doomington School, which was the goal of Philip's endeavours, but to
the modern Council institution called the Highfield Grade School, for
which Harry's more astute and vehement personality seemed to fit him
more readily than for the fourth-century romanticism of Doomington
School.  Yet only partly to keep abreast with his friend did Philip
apply himself to hard reading of a less congenial kind than poetry.  It
is at a very early stage in the fortunes of Angel Street youth that the
shadows of tailor shop and grocery stores begin to cloud the dawn.
Before the meaning of such liberty as Angel Street can afford has been
grasped, it is time to study the lines of slavery.  So early then had
the grinding fear of a sweated agony in a factory over the Mitchen
turned Philip's mind towards his only escape, to further and further
schooling, beyond the boundaries of the Bridgeway Elementary School.
Perhaps more immediately he felt that Doomington School would leave him
free to tread the primrose path of poetry.  He envisioned such
black-gowned masters as figured in the adventures of Master Tom Merry;
saw them walking along groves academe hidden somewhere behind the walls
of Doomington School; and at their heels, imbibing the poetry these
gentlemen read from gold-clasped poets illuminated upon parchment
richer than the Scrolls of the Law at the _Polisher Shool_, a crowd of
emotional youths, who only turned from poetry in order to practise at
the nets or consume at Ma Pott's tuck-shop illimitable pastry.

He applied himself with fervour to French verbs, the Gulf Stream, and
the vexed question of herrings in barrels.  He discovered that at a
certain stage in his reading the letters on the page before him lost
their antique stability and began to pirouette across the page, bowing
their heads, and, in the case of the genus "f" and "g," swishing their
tails indecorously; soon everything would melt in a mist of grey until
only by shutting his eyes and relaxing every ocular nerve he could
resume his vision.

"Father!" he declared, "it gets all mixed up on the paper when I've
been reading a long time.  I think I need spectacles!"

"Thou canst not study," asked Reb Monash, "without wanting to be like
thy elders?  Go then, go!  I did not want spectacles till I was
five-and-thirty and I read more by the time I was ten than thou shalt
have read when thou art thirty!  Go then, go!  Thine eyes are well
enough!"

It was in the paper on geometry that his bad sight brought swiftest
disaster.  He had solved one or two propositions with infinite
difficulty.  He stared so hard and long at the paper before him on an
indecipherable mass of angles and lines that the _danse funèbre_ began
sooner than usual.  When his vision arrived at the stage of opacity he
laid his pen down in a mood of bitter resentment....  He felt himself
for the first time hating his father with a conscious hate.

The examination was being held in the Meeting Hall of Doomington
School.  He looked over the backs of his bent industrious competitors
towards the tall arched windows.  These, on their outer side, were cut
by a black parapet, leaving only the upper half of the windows on that
side of the hall open to the daylight.  He saw dimly a dark mass moving
leisurely along the parapet, now appearing behind the windows, now
disappearing behind the intervening walls.  It seemed almost like one
of the peccant letters on his paper, incarnate in bulk.  The long tail
wagged playfully.  Philip blinked and stared intently.  It was a large
and amiable rat.  The rat disappeared beyond the further windows and
left Philip staring blankly.  The rat found the destination he had been
making for unworthy of his continuous esteem.  He sauntered pleasantly
back and then, discovering that an incident of more than usual interest
was taking place in the hall, he sat down on his haunches and looked on
in friendly concern.  Philip felt the rat's eyes looking interestedly
down upon his own.  He could have sworn that the rat inclined his head
with the gesture of a commendatory uncle.

"Never mind, old lad!" said the rat.  "You're making a howling mess of
your geometry, it's true!  If Mister Blabberthwaite, the geometry man,
had the least say in the matter there'd be no chance for you, my
hearty.  And you've by no means gratified my expectations regarding
your geography paper, I must say.  It was, perhaps, coming it a bit
thick to ask the names of all the capes on the American sea-board, that
I admit; but that wasn't any excuse for chucking Flamborough Head at
the mouth of the Irrawaddy which, if I mistake not, is not in America
at all.  It's in Queensland or something of the sort.  However,
_that's_ no odds!  Don't worry, I feel a strong suspicion that
Doomington School will make room for you yet ... although don't breathe
a word, or it's all u.p., to use a vulgarism.  No, not a word!  The
truth is," whispered the rat, lifting a silencing paw to his nose, "Mr.
Furness and I have got something up our sleeves for you, something you
can't guess; but it's there right enough.  _Verb. sap._, as people
invariably say upon arriving at my own respectable age.  But
Esmeralda's squeaking, old chap!  Sorry I can't stay ... but these
wives, you know! ... Well, so long, so long, and keep going!  So long!"
And the rat resumed his urbane path.

It was impossible to get down to his geometry again, his head was
swimming.  He rose and deposited his papers before the dignified
grey-haired worthy at the door, who, if he wasn't Mr. Furness, the head
master, was at least, surely, the Principal Governor of the School.

When they placed the subjects for an English essay before him and he
read:

  "A day in my favourite church."

or

  "What is the meaning of Empire Day?"

or

  "The Place of Poetry in Cities,"

with a shout of inner exultance which, he feared, would lift the roof
of his skull, he realized precisely the good fortune which Messrs.
Furness and Rat had been retaining for him up their joint sleeves.  He
betook himself to "The Place of Poetry in Cities" with a secret fear
that the ink-pot could not possibly contain sufficient ink, a fear
counteracted by the dismal thought that only one hour was allowed him
to express his opinion upon the subject of which he was the prime
authority in all Britain.

"The Place of Poetry in Cities," he began with anticipatory panache,
"is so great that it abolishes cities and turns the mud rivers into
rivers of silver.  There is," he continued with anti-climax, "nothing
like it."  But he soon resumed the tenour of his flight.  Philip was,
in fact, affirming his creed, affirming the philosophy he had attained
after eleven and a half years of brick and mud, of stupidity, error,
false ideals, of that living poetry spelled by the half-hidden love
between his mother and himself, of that poetry in words which, without
this living poetry, could not have unfolded her secrets to a child
immersed in an almost unbroken despair.  His pen scratched furiously
along.  Too swiftly, too swiftly, the minutes raced round the rim of
his borrowed watch.  Frequently the green meadows of his writing were
patined with flowers from the poets he had discovered, Campbell, Moore,
Tennyson, Longfellow, and when these failed him, an impromptu verse
from Philip Massel bubbled from his simmering brain.  He was vaguely
conscious of the approach towards him of a clean-shaven man, with a
strong, red face, firm of jaw; but clad in such inexpensive clothing as
obviously to denote him the caretaker or, perhaps, the drilling
instructor.  He was aware with a slight annoyance that the man hung for
some minutes over his paper and then very lightly placed his hand on
Philip's head.  There was something quiet and fine and firm in that
gesture.  Perhaps he wasn't the drilling instructor?  Perhaps he was a
real master with a large family and he couldn't afford to wear
brand-new clothing?  What did it matter? ... "so that the chimneys all
seem to be made of gold and the poor men are like princes...."

The stage arrived when he could no longer see the lines on which he was
writing or the letters he was forming.  Still his pen raced along.  The
tip of his pen disappeared in a mist like the top of a telegraph pole
in a November fog.  His forehead was clammy with sweat.  His forefinger
and thumb hurt horribly.  And what was that?  Some fool was clanging
the bell!  That meant he must stop!  Oh, the fool!  Faster still and
faster!  He felt that his eyes must fall from his sockets.  Tears of
effort were rolling down his face.  At last!  At last!  "... for Poetry
takes us from the cities of bricks and mud to a land full of beauty
like the night is full of stars!"

The dignitary of the receiving-desk by the door stared curiously at
him.  He staggered out, half-blind, but filled with a great calm.  The
days that followed were days of a confident lassitude.  The decision
lay on the knees of the Rat and Mr. Furness, and he was content to wait.

When the information arrived that Philip Massel had won his
scholarship, Reb Monash buried Philip's head in his moustache and
beard.  "Now," he said, his voice quivering, "thou wilt be a Jew and a
Human, a credit to God and Man!"

Another matter of satisfaction was the fact that Mottele looked
enviously towards him and made deliberate advances.  And when he went
to tell his sister Dorah, in Longton, it was surprising to find her
stiff angular figure bending down and the hard mouth with strange
vehemence kissing him.  Sixpence and a new overcoat of a wonderful
fluffy grey followed from the same quarter.  Channah cried and bought
him a little volume of selections from a poet called Shelley.

But he appreciated nothing as he appreciated the pan of onions his
mother fried for him, all in curly brown strips and steeped in butter;
and more onions, and more onions, until he had had enough.  And his
mother looked at him, and he understood, for the voice that asked for
another plateful was choked not merely by fried onions.



BOOK II

FORWARD FROM PHYLACTERIES



CHAPTER VI

Philip realized at no earlier age than is customary that life, anyhow
externally, is a succession of illusions, and that, if reality actually
exists, it must be isolated from facts and days, this inner reality
being governed by one set of laws and the outer appearance by another.
So that while poetry still dominated the inner boy as with a rod of
changeless reality, he found it necessary to abandon, for instance, the
old fancy of Doomington School in favour of the present fact.

It was a matter of acute disappointment to him that one convention laid
down by all his reading was not observed; for he was not seized by a
group of young gentlemen clad principally in Eton suits and top hats to
be immersed in a stream which ought surely to have flowed somewhere
through the precincts of the school.  The front of the building solidly
enough lined a narrow central street of Doomington.  A further aspect,
and one which seemed to conclude its periphery, was seen beyond the
grassless ground adjoining an even older institution.  From no vantage
were the leafy summits of trees to be seen and no stream issued from
any portcullised arch in the walls.  It was the antique Mitchen alone
which thrust turbid ink in any visible proximity.  But what secret
bowers and what green places were hidden beyond the walls, some
mysterious how contained in her unfathomed spaces, who could tell?

He was not ducked in some shy water.  On the other hand it did not
approach his concept of an awesome initiation that a group of quite
grubby boys seized him and bore him, frightened but not wholly
unwilling, towards an underground lavatory where pallid basins gleamed
in the interrupted light.  His head was thrust into one of these
prosaic basins and water sent unpleasantly down his neck.  He was with
some solemnity declared then to be fully a member of Transition A, and
allowed to proceed to his lunch in the main section of this underground
world, where he sat on the water pipes that lined the walls, eating
bread and cheese timidly.  The air tingled with the bloodthirsty shouts
of footballers, violently kicking balls of crushed paper and twine.  A
lady with tawny hair in a corner of the basement dispensed Jersey
caramels to appeased footballers.  Indubitably the triumph of the day
was the purchase of a cap, green, with blue circular stripes, crested
with an eagle invincibly--a cap which proclaimed to the whole abashed
world that here was one who was of the world's elect, here was one who
was no lesser a mortal than a scholar at Doomington School.

As he walked home that afternoon, he took slow and measured steps, so
that none should be denied the privilege of gazing upon his cap.  It
seemed that less a thing of cloth texture sat on his head than a crest
of fire.  As he walked along Doomington Road, he paused before each
mirrored window as if to tie a shoelace, and actually to compare his
eagle, to their enormous disfavour, with all fowls in the lists of
fable or biology.  But a climax, which seemed on the whole rather to be
overdoing it, occurred as he passed below the windows of the factory
where his sister Channah was a button-hole hand.  For the shrill bravas
of feminine throats attracted his gaze upwards and there he saw and
heard the clustered buttonhole hands cheering and waving
enthusiastically.  And before Philip had time to lower his blushing
face a cloud of confetti descended upon this youthful bridegroom of our
fair Lady of Wisdom, accentuating his discomfort into an ordeal of
shame.  At this moment a schoolmate, not much older than Philip, but
his faded cap displaying a far more advanced stage of sophistication,
passed by, bestowing a sour look upon the object of this public
debasement of the masculine values of Doomington School.  When he
arrived home his mother laid before him a steaming plate of soup which
she almost upset in her proud concentration upon the eagle-crested cap.

"And do you know, Mother," Philip declared during his breathless
repetition of the day's events, "there was a man there who put us into
our classes and he was reading my composition at the scholarship and I
thought he was the drilling man but he isn't really, he's the head
master, Mr. Furness, and he's like Jupiter, only Jupiter's got a great
big black beard and Mr. Furness hasn't and he's not got much on the top
of his head either.  There's a huge statue of Jupiter..."

"To thy soup, Feivel!" said Mrs. Massel, "It will get cold and Mr.
Foniss will not come and heat it for thee.  Calm then, calm!" she
demanded, by no means less aquiver with excitement than the boy.

Yet it must be here said that for some considerable time to come,
Doomington School had no serious influence upon Philip's real life.
There was of course something _genteel_ about the atmosphere compared
with the crudities of the Bridgeway Elementary School, and this
demanded from Philip a much more rigid discipline in the matter of
boots and ties.  His master, he was informed, hailed from an Olympian
institution called Oxford University, and for this reason wore a sombre
black gown which would have made of a less imposing figure than this
gentleman an object to be treated with remote awe.  Mr. Mathers was
distinguished from Miss Tibbet, at least by the fact that he did not
wear tortoise-shell spectacles, and from Miss Briggs of the infants'
hall, by the fact that the two front teeth of his top jaw were not
disproportionate.  Yet Philip felt in his presence a combination of the
Briggs terror and the Tibbet ennui.  There was in him a monomaniac
insistence on the correct orders of Latin sentences which produced the
sensation half-way during the lesson that the orders of Latin sentences
and the orders of the stars in their courses were of like fundamental
gravity.  Mr. Mathers presented an interesting contrast to little Mr.
Costar who taught French, and who sat in his high desk like a little
bird twittering on a bough.  Twitter--twitter! the notes came, in a
sequence of trills not musical but shrill and frequent.  Yet sometimes,
and without warning, the tree-top twitter would cease, the eyes of Mr.
Costar would become glacially severe, some delinquent would be lifted
in his beak like a pink quivering worm, the throat of Mr. Costar would
vibrate in the processes of swallowing, and immediately the twitter
would be resumed, twitter--twitter, shrill, without humour.  The boys
seemed no less strange and unreal than Mr. Mathers and Mr. Costar.
They came mysteriously from townships scattered round the central and
gloomy sun of Doomington, and disappeared with their daily quotum of
Latin orders and French verbs into the same dim places, beyond the pale
of knowledge.  There was a community of Jewish boys at Doomington, but
he seemed at once only too familiar with their characteristics.  They
were a blend of Mottele and Barney, Mottele being the predominant
element.  Doomington School lay outside him, poetry lay within.
Doomington School did not want him.  He would wait.  Perhaps he too
would some day attain the heavy-browed responsibilities of a form
monitor, might be even the monitor elected by the form itself and not
the monitor arbitrarily appointed by the master.  But now all these
concerns were beyond him, unintelligible.

On the other hand, the rearrangement in his daily times produced by the
school day was a matter of considerable importance.  It meant that he
arrived home nearly two hours before the nightly session of _chayder_;
with the consequence that Reb Monash was still wrapped in his afternoon
doze.  Mrs. Massel had by this time cleared away every vestige of the
mid-day meal and the kitchen was smelling delightfully fresh and clean.
The brasses on the mantelshelf shone broad and lustrous--trays and
samovar brought over from Russia, and the array of candlesticks which
glorified the table every Sabbath eve.  The floor had been
energetically scrubbed and the windows so polished as to seduce into
the kitchen whatever light lingered beyond the iron bars.  On the sofa
sat Mrs. Massel herself, in a clean afternoon apron, her fingers busy
with knitting, allowing herself in Philip's honour the few minutes she
spent idly in a day which began at six in the morning and ended at
eleven.  Mrs. Massel was a woman of middle age, slim, but her whole
body eloquent of hard work.  When Reb Monash had gone to seek his
rhetorical fortunes in America, before Philip was born, she had tried
to combine the housework with some form of itinerant business; the
strain was still visible in the long lines across her forehead.  Her
face was small and wrinkled and superficially older than her actual
years.  When, however, she smiled, the clouds of her sorrow and
tiredness seemed to chase each other out of the skies of her face.  She
was then wistful and childish as one to whom the world still had all
her tragedies to reveal.  Her nose was a little too broad for the small
lines of her face, and this only added to her smile an element of the
elfin and unreal, as if she had been instructed in some wisdom of dim
mirth by little people far beyond the circle of her recurrent
drudgeries.  This childlike sweetness lay in her eyes even in repose;
for they seemed large and luminous with some inner steady light, they
were brown like hill tarns when autumn is on the bracken slopes round
them.  On her smiling this light seemed to be broken into little
ripples which coursed over the brown waters of her eyes; but a surprise
and a doubt at no time deserted them, as if beyond the horizon clouds
lay ever waiting to veil these brown lights with mist.

The love between Mrs. Massel and her son was a thing which never or
rarely found expression in the usual endearments.  It was a love much
more of silences than of speech.  Philip did not like kissing her, as
feeling somehow that the relation between them lay too deep for the
lips.  It made him self-conscious, and of his love a duty and a
convention instead of the sacrament too deep for any deliberate
thought.  Kissing in Christian families, he learned from books and his
meagre experience, was a routine, where every member of the family
kissed all others on recognized sections of the face at organized
hours.  From his mother the endearments he received were a broken word
which unwittingly left her lips, a gentle wind-like caress on the head,
a goodly something pressed secretly into his hand, or merely a glance
from her brown and childish eyes which might rest on his own for two
moments, silent with sanctity.

This concealment of their affection had always come naturally to them,
though it was found also to be the most discreet policy.  Reb Monash
had long discovered that the way to confirm impiety was to cherish the
impious.  He therefore expected from his wife that at those periods
when he was displaying in no mild manner his objection to the latest
phase of Philip's heathenism, his wife should loyally and actively
second his displeasure.  Any manifestation of affection towards Philip
at such times caused him with so little restraint to lift his voice
that (to the humiliation of his wife) it was obvious that their
neighbours on both sides of the house were no less participant of his
eloquence than himself.

It was because during a whole hour they could sit and talk without
fear, that Philip's return from school now became the brightest period
of the day for both.  Quite quickly Philip would switch from the day's
events to the latest poetry that had fastened on his imagination.

"Mamma," he said, "Listen and be very quiet.  I'm going to read you
something from Shelley.  Oh, it's a lovely thing about a plant in a
garden where there was hyacinths and roses like nymphs and about a Lady
who came with osier bands and things to hold the flowers up.  I say,
Mamma, I say!"

"_Nu_, what is it?  Thy meat's not well cooked?"

"No, no!  I'm talking about lilies, not meat!  I wonder which you are!"

"What I am?  I am thy mother!  What more needest thou?"

"Which are you?  Are you the Sensitive Plant or are you the Lady in the
garden?  When _tatte_ starts shouting you look lonely, like the
Sensitive Plant, but when he's upstairs you're all lovely like the
Lady!"

"Foolishness!  Foolishness!"

"But then the Lady died, so it can't be you, can it?  And so did the
Sensitive Plant, so what are we to do about it?"

"Of course she died!  What then?  And thy mother also, over a hundred
years!  She too!  But why must thou talk about Death like this, thou
not thirteen yet?  Wait till thou art older and thou hast a wife and
family and hast married a son and a daughter, then it will be time!
But for thy Lady, she's only a story, so of course she's dead!  How
else?"

"Ah, that's where you're wrong, see!  Shelley knows all about it.  He
makes you feel awfully miserable and then he comes back right at the
very end:

  _That garden sweet, that lady fair,
  And all sweet shapes and odours there,
  In truth have never past away!
  'Tis we, 'tis ours, are changed; not they._

I suppose all that's what Harry means by 'philosophy.'  Anyhow, that's
not the part I like so much.  What d'you think of this?

  _... Narcissi, the fairest among them all
  Who gaze on their eyes in the stream's recess
  Till they die of their own dear loveliness."_


"What does thy mother think of it?  My head's aching; what can I
understand thereof?"

"Oh yes, you can understand it right enough!  You understand it better
than I do, but you don't want to show off!  But listen ... Oh, where's
that Shelley Channah bought me?  Good, here it is!  Listen to this
now!"  And he ran through another poem recently discovered.  This
reading and chanting would take place daily.  Mrs. Massel sat on the
sofa bewildered by this spate of melody, but keenly happy in the
enthusiasm of her son.  If she ever ventured a "Philip, but not one
word do I understand!"  "Ah! what does that matter?" Philip replied.
"Do you remember when I asked _tatte_ what good I would do to God by
saying a lot of prayers I can't understand a bit about--you remember,
he was in a good temper?--he answered that it didn't matter if you
can't understand; it's so holy to say things in Hebrew that God likes
it just the same.  Well, there you are, it's just poetry!  It's like
singing, only much finer!"

Sometimes he would get her to repeat lines after him.  She might make a
feeble attempt to remonstrate with him, but saw that her humorous
efforts made him so beam with delight, that awkwardly, with an entirely
false distribution of accents and meanings, she stammered out her
lines.  It was "Arethusa" finally brought this diversion to an end.

"From her couch of snows," said Philip.  She made an effort to imitate
him.

"In the Acroceraunian mountains."

"In de Ac--ac--ac ... It cannot be, Feivel.  I can't!"

"In the Ac--ro--ce--rau--nian mountains."

"Ac--roc--Ac--roc--roc--  No, Feivel, my teeth!  Tell me all the rest
thyself, I will listen; it will be better so!  I cannot thy croc--croc!"

When at last the feet of Reb Monash were heard in the bedroom overhead,
the poetry séance came abruptly to an end.  Mrs. Massel turned to the
fire to put on the kettle for his pre-_chayder_ tea.  Philip
regretfully hid away his poet and turned to the intricacies of algebra.

Schoolboys have an unerring instinct for the presence or absence of
what at Doomington School was called "public spirit."  It was in fact
so essential a part of the non-material composition of the school that
the lists of forms which were drawn up terminally, a little invidiously
distinguished with an asterisk those hearts where "public spirit" was a
constant flame.

Philip, though his first year was well advanced, still came to school
somewhat as a stranger.  While he himself anticipated little the
vehement passion which would some day absorb him into the fabric of the
school, his form mates anticipated it far less.  So that the cold
disregard for Philip general in the form was in certain boys
concentrated into active persecution, and in Jeremy Higson, into an
attitude mournfully reminiscent of the Babylonian _Kossacken_.  The
spirit was similar but the methods differed vitally.  Higson might be
standing loosely against a desk when Philip entered the room after the
luncheon interval.  A nail-studded boot would sweep like Jove's bolt
from the void into Philip's rear.  But turning towards Higson, Philip
would find only a heavy-faced youth talking sleepily with his friends.
Higson senior was a mild Episcopalian gentleman who had written sixteen
pamphlets to prove the identity of the Anglo-Saxons, including the
Higsons senior and junior, with the Lost Tribes.  For some perverse
reason Higson junior was exceedingly antipathetic to the Found Tribes,
when, to be logical, it was for Higson junior to rush forward in
consanguineous ecstasy to kiss Philip on the forehead and to repudiate
his principal friend, Evan Evans, an indisputable Celt, as an
outlander, an unsanctified.

"Where was Moses when the light went out?" he jeered with criminal
disrespect.  "Who killed Christ?" he insisted frequently, turning
towards Philip an eye so baleful that it was evident he considered
Philip an actual participant in the crucifixion.

"Out of my way, you _smog_!" he growled, realizing that smog was a more
acid irritant to Philip than _sheeny_.  Yet he discovered and practised
a more exquisite infliction.  He knew that pig was anathema in Judæa,
because Higson senior had once made a pathetic effort to veto this
commodity from his household in response to Pentateuchal inhibition, an
effort done to nought by the severe displeasure of Mrs. Higson and
Higson junior.

Higson junior therefore introduced into the classroom the most
succulent morsels from his midday ham sandwiches to devour them in
lengthy bliss before Philip's sickened eyes.  Philip began to discover
little blobs of ham fat in his pockets and school bag.  Upon one
calamitous day he found as he devoured the first mouthful of his lunch
a taste of unutterable impiety in his mouth.  Looking with horror into
his paper bag he found that its contents had been skilfully tampered
with, (he kept his lunch stowed in the pockets of his coat hanging in
the basement cloakroom), and that his mouth was now tainted with the
abomination of desolation.  He withdrew on the wings of disgust and
scoured his mouth with water for the remainder of that interval, a
process he repeated impetuously during the next few days as often as he
recalled the dishonour of his mouth.

"What do you mean by it?" Higson asked Philip one afternoon.

"By what?"

"Killing Christ!"

Philip winced and turned away.

"I say, lads!" Higson said winking.  "Let's have a lark with _smoggie_!"

"What's on, Turnips?"

"Let's crucify him!"

A slight gasp of horror rose from the Higson clientele.

"It's quite easy!  Let's first stretch him out on the wall...."

Philip ran to the foot of Mr. Mathers' desk.  His desperate eye had
caught sight of a large earthenware bottle of ink.  He lifted it and
with twitching lips he whispered, "Touch me, that's all!"

"You little squib!" said Higson, swaggering forward nonchalantly.  He
looked round to his friends.

"Just give me a hand, you fellows!"

"This is your job, Turnips!  You bring him to the wall!  We'll do the
rest!"

"Just you touch me, that's all!" Philip said wildly, his whole body
tense against the desk.

"And what will you do?"

"I'll throw this in your face!  You'll see!"

"Go it, Turnips!" the retinue encouraged.  "He's littler than you!"

Higson looked round with a growing expression of despair.  It was
impossible to withdraw.  He moved towards Philip.  Philip's arm shot
forward.  "Oogh--oogh--oogh!"  A great volume of muddy ink was
streaming down Higson's face and over his light green suit.  "Oh, you
bloody little devil!  Oh, by Christ, I'll show you!"

"No you don't!" a quiet voice said.  It was Forrester, the football
captain for the form.  "You've had your whack!  You'd better go and
wash before Mathers comes in!"

"Yah!" howled the retinue with swift veer of sails.  "Look at Turnips!"

Bullying was one thing, in fact, and dirty blasphemy another,
particularly when attended by public ignominy.

Philip, it is true, was not more beloved after this incident than
before, but Higson certainly receded into a background of smouldering
impotence.

It can readily be seen then that Transition A was not likely to render
Philip's old interests less attractive.

A new planet now was beginning to swim into Sewelson's ken.  The planet
attained soon the fixity of a star.  The star soon almost rivalled the
sun of poetry as the prime luminary of Philip's intellectual sky.  The
name of the new focus was Socialism.

"Don't talk to me about poetry!" Harry declared impatiently one day.
"What's the good of poetry while children are starving in garrets?  For
God's sake keep it in its place, like a lap-dog in a basket.  I tell
you, Philip, I tell you, there's nothing else but Socialism.  Liberals
are Conservatives with their hands in somebody else's pockets.
Conservatives are Liberals with their hands in their own pockets!
Chalk and cheese!  We working men have got beyond 'em; we can see 'em
through and through.  Dead Sea Fruit, that's what they are, all lies
and hypocrisy inside, and red smiles outside.  What did Churchill
promise and how much has he done?  No, Philip, a good time's coming!
Socialism for ever!"

"But listen, Harry, not so fast!  What does it all mean?  And why
should it knock poetry out like that?  There can't be much good in it,
if it hasn't got any room for poetry, I don't care what you say!"

Harry glared for a moment.  "I didn't say that!" he snapped.  "I said
it's bigger than poetry!  It is poetry!  How do you like that?  Real
poetry!"

The relation between the boys at this moment presented in a lively
manner their differences and similarities.  When any fresh intellectual
concept was presented to Philip, he was constitutionally distrustful of
it until he had ascertained its position regarding his previous
intellectual experience.  With an unease which expressed itself in a
sort of timid humour, he held back from the idea, fearful of any
separative influence upon the current of his emotions.  Harry, on the
other hand, was borne away completely by any new proposition which
made, through material disharmony, towards intellectual harmony.  But
he was as instinctively afraid of a new emotional enthusiasm as Philip
was hospitable to it, and here he adopted the protective coloration of
a humour somewhat lambent and mischievous, to disguise the essentially
sluggish setting of his sympathies towards an enlargement of his
non-rational existence.

"Well, define it!" challenged Philip.  "I know that I don't know
anything about it excepting that all sorts of filthy people are called
Socialists.  People who get full of poetry begin to live a more
beautiful life inside.  I suppose it ought to be the same with
Socialists!"

"Oh, there you are, just as I thought!" exclaimed Harry rather shrilly.
"Talking about Socialists, Socialists!  What about poets, poets, if it
comes to that?  You know Shelley was an absolute pig with that girl
Harriet and Cowper was mad and Tennyson became a Lord!  What on earth's
that got to do with poetry!  I was talking about Socialism, and I say
there's nothing in the world but Socialism!  That's what I say! ..."

"How long have you been like this, Harry?  It sounds uncomfortable!"

"Oh, ages!" replied Harry loosely.

"You said nothing about it when I saw you two Saturdays ago.  Not that
that's got anything to do with it, either!  But still, lend a poor chap
a hand!  Where does it all want to get to?"

"Oh, there's millions of books been written about it.  You know you
couldn't put poetry into a word or two, but it means something like
'Government of the People for the People by the People'--that sort of
thing.  No millionaires paddling about in fat motor-cars and boys
getting consumptive in mines!  No plush and palaces for the lords and
sweat and a crust for the working people.  No rotten old kings on
thrones and dying men scrubbing on their knees in workhouses! ... Oh,
don't you see how we want it in Doomington of all places in the world!
_There's_ something--what is it you're always gassing about?--which is
going to sweep away the muck and the chimneys quicker than mooning
about with hollyhocks!"

"Have you got a book about it?" asked Philip uneasily.

"A book?  Yes, I _suppose_ you'd better have a book to help you along.
I've got a fine book all about it, by a chap called Blatchford.
_Britain for the British_, that's what it's called!  It'll knock you
off your feet, first read.  Oh damn, I've lent it to Segal!  I don't
think you've met Segal!  No?  Oh, he's a clever devil!  Yes, I'll get
it back from Segal and you can have it."

"Right!  I'd like to see what it's all about."

"Look here!  You've done your homework, haven't you?  You haven't?
Well, _I_ haven't, it doesn't matter!  There's a Socialist meeting
outside Ward's Engineering Works to-night!  They're thinking of putting
up a Socialist candidate instead of the lousy Liberal.  What do you say
to coming along just now?"

"I'll never get home in time.  The old man's getting a bit radgy again."

"Well, of course, if you're always going to be tied to your father's
apron strings...."

"I didn't say I wasn't coming!" Philip broke in hotly.

"Right-ho!  We'll go through the back.  It's nearer!"

It is almost no exaggeration to say that when Philip came home that
night, his head was clamorous with a new gospel, his eyes shone with
revelation, his too inflammable nature was ablaze!  He walked in
unsteadily as if he had been drinking a heady wine.  He looked towards
his father with a certain pity in his glance.  Was he not too a victim
of these iniquitous conditions which the fiery-bearded man had
described with such blood-freezing fury?  Did Reb Monash know it?  Of
course he did not know it!  "Hapathy!" the man had thundered, "Hapathy!
'Ere is the henemy!  Your fathers is strangling their children.  What
for?  Hapathy!  Your children is drinking the blood of their fathers!
What for?  What for, I ask?  Hapathy!  Deny it who can!"

Reb Monash was engaged in a conversation with a lady who had two sons
to dispose into a _chayder_.  He thought it discreet for the moment to
remain outwardly unaware of the sinful hour Philip had chosen for his
return.  Open disapproval would have displayed Philip as no
satisfactory sample, so to speak, of the paternal wares.  He turned to
Philip and with a gentle significance the two-sonned lady could not
have fathomed, inquired, "Sewelson?"

"No!" replied Philip, "Socialism!"

Reb Monash's lips tightened imperceptibly.  He resumed the conversation
with his client.

"Of course," declared Philip enthusiastically some time later, "there's
absolutely no doubt of it!  Shelley was an out-and-out Socialist!  As
much of a Socialist as that candidate fellow, Dan what's-his-name!"

"You're right!  Shelley was all there!" affirmed Harry.  He beamed
pleasantly upon his convert.  "All the decent chaps have been
Socialists from the beginning.  Christ too, he was no end of a
Socialist!"

"Don't know anything about Christ!" said Philip uneasily.  There was
something disturbing in this treatment of Christ.  Christ belonged in
the first place to Russia, where they impaled babies in His honour; and
then to the Baptist Missionary Chapel, where He was associated with
soup and magic lanterns; and to the Christian prayers at school
wherein, of course, Philip had no part.

"Christ was a Jew, after all," Harry put in tentatively, "like Karl
Marx."

"Karl Marx?"

"Yes, that's the chap who wrote the big book you were looking at, on
the chair near you.  I can't say I quite understand it, but they all
say you've got to read it, so I got it out of the library."

"Oh that!  I don't like that sort of Socialism, it's as bad as Mathers'
Latin!  I prefer Shelley's.  How does it go?  Oh yes, don't you think
this is fine poetry and fine Socialism, both together in one?

  _Arise like lions after slumber
  In unvanquishable number.
  Shake your chains to earth like dew
  Which in sleep had fatten upon you.
  Ye are many.  They are few!_

Isn't it fine?"

"Whist!  Yes, that beats the song we sing at the Socialist
meetings--all about keeping the red flag flying, eh?  It leaves old man
Tennyson a bit husky, what do you think?"

"Steady dog, isn't he, Tennyson?  Wants to take his time about it.
Doesn't he say something like

  _Freedom slowly broadens down
  From precedent to precedent....?_

Doesn't that mean you've got to take things sort of quietly?"

"... While mothers haven't got any milk for their kids and Doomington
stinks with corpses!  By God!  It makes me sick!  But there's no point
rubbing it into you, you dark horse.  You've been a Socialist for the
last--how many--fourteen years?  But listen, I've not told you?  Dan
Jamieson wants me to get on my hind legs and say a few words at one of
his meetings.  What do you say to that?"

"I'd be frightened out of my life.  But how does he know you'll not
make a muck of it?"

"That's what I wanted to know.  But he said he overhead me barging at a
lot of kids at a street corner, and he said to himself, 'that's the
goods for me,' he said."

"Gee!  You'll start crying in the middle!"

"Don't be so sure!  It matters too much for me to start howling like a
kid.  I'm as good as that weedy fellow with no chin at the Liberal
meeting yesterday, any time of the year!"

"What are you going to talk about?  Will you spit out this here Marx of
yours?"

"I saw Jamieson on Tuesday and asked him what he wanted.  'Never tha
mind, lad!' he said, 'it'll serve our purpose seeing a lad like thee
get oop on's feet.  That'll fetch 'em.  Doan't think in advance about
it.  Just oppen tha lips and t'rest'll coom.'  That's the way he went
on.  It _does_ make me feel rather goosy sometimes," Harry admitted,
"but I've got hopes in that line, so all I can say is I ought to be
damn glad of the chance!"

"Well, you're a game 'un, anyhow.  I shouldn't like to be in your
shoes."

"You never know, my lad, you never know!" Harry speculated with dubious
prophecy.


Again some time has passed.  Reb Monash sits upright upon that corner
chair wherein none shall sit whether Reb Monash be asleep upstairs or
at the furthest limit of his peregrinations--because "Respect!
respect!" he declares, "What means it to be sitting on a father's
chair!"  He is sitting upright and his left fist clenched angrily beats
the table before him in punctuation of his utterances.

"Has one ever heard of such a thing?  A _yungatsch_ of fifteen, not
more, to stand up in the market-place with the enemies of Israel and
talk black things!  That's what it means, your schools and your
teachers!  His parent, what is he?  An _isvostchik_!  I never had any
trust in these Rumanians.  The town rings with it.  Imagine! standing
up on a cart among the Atheists and Free-Lovers and Socialists!  It's a
_shkandal_.  It will bring his mother's grey hairs in sorrow to the
grave.  Sooner my son should in the grave himself be than behave like
that proselytized Sewelson.  Understand, not a word, Feivel!  Thou must
never put foot into the heathen's house!  I forbid it!  I have had my
doubts for long.  Would that I had so commanded before this day.  God
knows what poison thou canst have drunk from his lips.  What, what
sayest thou, Philip?"

"_Tatte_, I can't, he's my only pal!  I'll be alone without him.  And
he doesn't do it every week, anyhow.  It's only this once!"

"Never must he enter this house!  And if thou art ever seen with him, I
will break for thee thy bones, all of them.  No more now!"  He brought
the palm of his hand down emphatically.  "Chayah, bring me a glass of
tea!  Tell thy son to go to bed!  If not it will be the worse for him!"

Philip's heart shook with resentment and grief.  "I won't give him up,"
he muttered fiercely behind his teeth.  "He won't stop me!  He can't!
I'll be damned if I give him up!  He'll see!"

Heavy wings were brooding over the kitchen in Angel Street.  The gas
jet drooped dejectedly as if reluctant to light up the scared faces of
Mrs. Massel and her daughter.  They sat side by side on the sofa
nervously rubbing together the palms of their hands.  The thin white
cat scratched his ribs against their ankles and howled into their faces
inquiringly.

"Never mind," said Channah, "perhaps he'll just give him a good hiding
and send him off without supper.  It's happened before, mother.  Don't
look so worried!"

"Thou dost not know, Channah, what he's been saying to me in bed the
last few nights.  He said if he'll go again with Sewelson he'll
_shmeis_ him till he begs for mercy.  He said he'll keep him in the
cellar all night, he'll _shmeis_ him till he can't even cry.  Oh, what
a year has fallen upon us, Channah!"

"I hate Sewelson, it's all his fault!  I wish he was at the bottom of
the sea!" Channah burst out bitterly.

"But it was wrong of Feivel.  It was wrong to go out with Sewelson
again.  I told him.  He deserves it.  But no, the poor dove, not ..."

"Not what he'll get.  Do you know who it was told father he was talking
to Sewelson?  Oh, the sneak--I could murder him!"

"I don't know!  I don't know!  It was one of the _chayder_ boys, I
think.  But hush, here come they!  Don't say a word to him, Channah, or
he'll turn round on me and keep on shouting in bed all night!  Oi, look
at the child!"

Reb Monash entered the room, his face bloodless with anger and cold
determination.  Philip followed behind, his hands sunk in his pockets,
his chin on his breast.  Reb Monash took from the pocket of his alpaca
coat a long thin strip of black hide.  He sat down on a chair, and
without looking towards Philip, commanded "Thy trousers down!" Philip
obeyed.

"Now I will teach thee whether thou wilt mix with all the filth in the
land.  Over my knees!"

The venomous strap descended, twice, three times, four times.  A swift
catch came from Philip's throat.  Again and once again.  Her whole body
shuddering dismally, Mrs. Massel stole from the room.  From the
scullery came Channah's voice, moaning.  Again the strap came down.  A
thin cry of pain shrilled through Philip's teeth.

"And wilt thou again go with Sewelson?"

No answer.

"And wilt thou again go with Sewelson.  Say no!"

"I will!  I will!"

"Well, we will see who will prevail.  Say no!"

"I will!"

"I am stronger than thou.  Say no!"

For answer Philip's body rolled slackly from his father's knees.

"No, my son, no!  It is not yet finished.  Wilt thou say no?  One word,
no!"

The strap whistled through the air.  Remotely, brokenly, Philip's voice
came from far off.

"No!"

"That is as I thought!  Thou wilt bless me some time with tears in
thine eyes for what has been done to-night.  Thy mother can give thee
supper if she will, I do not forbid."

But the crushed figure of Philip had writhed from the room.  Soon he
was lying on his bed, limp, not daring to stir because each movement
stabbed him acutely.  He buried his face in the pillow.  He could not
think.  He could not remember.  He knew only that he was a mass of
intolerable pain.  Yet he knew that something hurt him even more than
his pain.  He had forsworn himself.  He had lost something.  All life
was a fight, was a movement forward, away from the darkness into the
places of light.  He had forsworn himself.  He had fallen back into
Babylon.  The dark was closing round him and the pitchy waters were
gurgling in his throat.

There was a whisper beside him.

"Philip, Philip, it's Channah!"

Who was Channah?  A girl, a sister.  She had a rolled gold brooch with
two holes where diamonds should have been.  One of her boots was very
worn at the heel.

"Go away, go away!  I don't want you!"

"Philip, poor old kid, I'm so sorry!  Mother's crying her heart out!
Listen, Philip!  Mother sent me up with a cup of milk and some cake!"

How the pain licked round him, like flames.  Sewelson was a fine chap,
anyhow.  God, what a wonderful speech he had made that night!  When he
came down his face was pouring with sweat.  Somebody threw a brick at
him....

"Philip, well?"

"Oh, go away, go away!  I don't want anything!  Leave me alone!"

"I'm leaving the milk and the cake on the chair by your bed, see?  Good
night, kid!  Drink up and try and go to sleep!"

Dimly he heard the sound of his father and mother entering their
bedroom.  Then a long monologue followed.  It was very loud, but his
ears were sealed against it.  Pitch blackness was all round him, and
something had made a breach in the walls of his soul and the pitch
blackness was flooding through.  Would they all be drowned, Sewelson
and Shelley and the big bluff face of Dan Jamieson?  He had forsworn
Shelley.  The image of Shelley's body tossing forlornly on the waters
of Spezzia reproached him.  Why had Shelley died if Philip Massel were
to forget him, leave him tossing endlessly on the grey seas?  A
melancholy cat gibbered beyond the window, down in the yard.  Wearily,
wearily, the hours passed.  He could not tolerate it.  With his guilt
keeping his shoulders below the waters he would never breathe clean
airs again, he would never fall asleep, never awake.

What could he do?  He must gainsay his disloyalty!  There was nothing
for it.  Thus only would the forward march from Babylon be resumed.
What?  What?  He started from his bed!  Repudiate his treachery before
the man in whose pocket lay dreadfully coiled the black snake?  There
was nothing, nothing but this!  Else all liberty was vain, poetry was
vain.  Poetry was a plaything, not the incense in the House of the
Lord.  A clock in a church steeple tolled once, twice.  The night was
passing; the dawn would come.  He would find his soul lost with the
dawn.  Nothing of glamour or struggle would be left for him.

Yet what could he do?  Renounce his renunciation?  Nothing less,
nothing else!  Vividly each stroke of the strap was reiterated in his
memory.  Was liberty worth it, was poetry?  He remembered Harry's
bleeding forehead where the lout had thrown the brick.  He imagined the
floating, sodden hair of Shelley adrift on the indifferent waters.

He rose from his bed.  It felt as if he were tearing his body into
strips.  Every bone ached, every muscle was raw.  He opened his door
and crept down the stairs till he stood outside his father's bedroom.
He knocked.  His father had at last fallen asleep.  The monologue for
that night was ended at last.  There was no reply.  He knocked again.
A sudden and tremendous panic seized him.  What a fool he was!  What
was he doing it all for?  Why shouldn't he settle down and be what his
father wanted him to be and what the masters at school wanted him to
be.  It was the easier way.  How easy it would be to gain the applause
of the Polish Synagogue, the applause of Doomington School!  On the
other side, what?  Poetry, Shelley!  A swift agony of pain as he moved
recalled him to his determination.  Forward, forward!  He knocked a
third time, more loudly.

"Yah, yah!" came the startled, sleepy voice of Reb Monash.  "Who is it?
What is it?"

Philip opened the door.

"It's me!"

"What hast thou come about?"

"I've come about Sewelson.  I said I won't go out again with
Sewelson..."  There was a pause.  The boy heard his heart drumming
across the night.  Then followed--"Well--I will!"

He heard a gasp from the bed.

"Gott!"

Silence, complete silence.

Philip closed the door and crept upstairs again.  The pain of his
lacerated flesh was somehow easier to bear.  A faint finger of
moonlight pointed ghostlily into the room as he entered.  He made out
vaguely the milk and cake his mother had sent up for him.  He
discovered he was ravenously hungry and devoured the food.  He took his
clothes off and with great caution hunched himself between the
blankets.  The moonlight washed over his face and showed him sound
asleep.


The truce was over.  During Philip's first year at school it had
already worn a little thin.  The emotion of pride with which Reb Monash
had seen his son enrolled among the scholars of Doomington School was
now considerably reduced.  Philip's second year at school seemed by no
means likely to bear out his father's prognostications that the study
of Gentile lore would so work upon his stubborn brain as to turn him
with warmth towards the _Yidishkeit_ of home and synagogue.  _Chayder_
was now out of the question.  It was easy enough for Philip to plead
home-work when a tentative invitation in that direction was held out,
and he was now nearly fourteen years old, too fully fledged for the
compass of _chayder's_ wing.

Yet Reb Monash was certainly going to see that the boy's other duties
were not neglected--his washings before food, his three several bodies
of prayer at morning, noon and night, his rigid application to the
matutinal phylacteries, his countless other duties.  In the degree that
Philip's enthusiasm for that whole aspect of his existence symbolized
by his phylacteries flagged, a process considerably accelerated by the
distintegrative tide of Socialism, Reb Monash himself determined that
his son's feet should be held forcefully upon the precise road.  He
frequently threatened a visit to Mr. Furness, an issue to which Philip
could not help looking forward with both pleasure and apprehension.
Philip had come into contact with the Head Master on very few
occasions, during one of which he was soundly snubbed for an effort to
display to Mr. Furness how much more intimate was his knowledge of
Shelley's philosophy than Mr. Furness'.  Yet he felt that there was a
faculty in Mr. Furness for seeing with those deep-set stone-blue eyes
so deeply into a proposition that the difficult nature of his case
would be manifest to him.  He felt at the same time a little discomfort
at the thought that the distinctly mediocre position he occupied in the
fortnightly form lists might attain a prominence he did not desire.
But, he reassured himself, there was always time to pick up in that
line, when he felt like it; in the meanwhile his friendship with
Sewelson was far more absorbing, particularly when it now became an
occupation which involved a savour of the perils incident to big game
hunting.  In short, whenever the opportunity presented itself, he was
in Sewelson's company, and whenever Reb Monash discovered the fact he
received the punishment he risked.

Dan Jamieson had received a paltry hundred and thirty-five votes at the
General Election.  But he had brought a blush of intense pleasure and
pride to Harry's cheeks by assuring him that to Harry he owed the odd
thirty-five.

"The foäk canna stand oop agin a babe!" he declared.  Philip was
standing by at the time, shyly enough, and Jamieson added kindly, "and
I expect another thirty-five voäts from thee, lad, next time we sets
ball rollin'!"

Harry refused to let his friend forget the thirty-five votes which were
due from him to the Socialist cause.  "It's not enough for you," he
insisted, "to talk to the chaps at the dinner hour.  That's an average
of a man a month.  I know.  I've been doing it.  You'll have to get up
and spout!"

"Don't be a fool, Harry!  You know it's not my line!  I'm not old
enough, anyhow!"

"Fiddle!  What about me?"

Philip's career as an orator began with a question he tried to ask at a
Conservative meeting, with a mouth which felt as if it were dilated
with an india-rubber ball.  No one took the least notice.  After many
minutes his blush of discomfort faded away, but he swore fervently that
he wasn't going to be such a blithering idiot next time.  Some days
later, when the tide of a Liberal orator's eloquence seemed to be
momentarily checked, he burst in shrilly with a long premeditated
question, "But what's the good of trying to patch the roof when the
foundations are rotten?"  The orator closed his mouth with a spasm of
fright.  A number of heavy democrats in the crowd said genially, "Good
for you, sonny!  That's stumped him!  Yes, what d'you say to that?"
they shouted to the orator, "What's the good of trying to patch the
roof when the foundations are rotten?"

"My concern is not with children," said the orator unhappily, "I'm
after the vote, the men with the vote.  I leave it to the other parties
to canvass the children!"

"Down with him, down with him!" a woman shrieked excitedly.  "He wants
to starve the kids!"

"Where's the young 'un?  Give him a chance!"

But Philip had withdrawn, having tasted blood.  A sweet music was
jingling in his ears.  He had heard his own voice lifted in the
presence of a crowd and the crowd had responded generously.  He
abandoned momentarily his ambition to become Poet Laureate and
determined to shape his course towards the Premiership of the United
Kingdom.

Now and again during this period Philip went to have a few words with
an old Bridgeway School friend of his who worked in one of the coat and
mantle factories bordering the Mitchen.  It was an experience which
lifted his Socialism from a theory and a somewhat sentimental
abstraction to a clamant and immediate need.  "Sweated labour" became a
phrase which he could endow with the actual physical associations it
was intended to conjure.  He saw the men in their filthy shirts
spitting upon their pressing-irons and the floor indiscriminately.
Their sweat fell unregarded on the material below them.  The tailors
sitting about on the littered tables seemed to be more perversions of
men, grotesques, than men actually.  The windows were fouled with an
opaque mist of dirt and sweat.  Little boys shuffled uneasily about
like subterranean gnomes.  Girls cackled hideously after him, and when
the men started an obscene catch which lifted his gorge, girl after
girl in the adjoining rooms accepted the sexual challenge and cackled
in return.  He saw a thick-nosed foreman whose waistcoat glimmered
evilly with countless soup droppings fuddling his fingers in the bosom
of a girl.  He saw another girl, a recent recruit, leaning,
ivory-yellow, through a window which looked down on the Mitchen slime.
There was no reason why her body should not follow where her eyes
looked down so stupidly.  What else was there?  Nothing but the reeking
room and the dirty songs and the swinish waistcoat of the foreman!  The
picture of this sick girl remained abidingly with him.  When Harry
turned suddenly to him one evening and announced that he had given
Philip's name to the Longton secretary as a speaker for next Sunday
evening, at the very moment of dismay and revolt her image came back to
him and filled him with a blind fury against the ordinances of men.

"All right, I'll come!" he said thickly.  "You know I'll make a filthy
mess of it, but that's your fault.  I've got nothing to say and I don't
know how to say it and I'll just get up and open my mouth and shut it
and fall off.  Good God, Harry Sewelson, you're a pig!"

"And you're a good Socialist!  There's two first-rate lies.  It's on
the croft outside Longton Park.  But don't worry, Philip, old man,
you've got the stuff, never fear!  Sunday, May the something-or-other,
is the date.  Anyhow, that doesn't matter, it's next Sunday, at
half-past six!  So that's all right!"

Philip carefully prepared a little speech.  He repeated it several
times before his mother, assuring her that it was one of Antony's many
orations over the corpse of Cæsar.  So long as Philip did not declaim
loud enough to wake Reb Monash she was happy enough to listen
obediently to Antony's denunciation of the House of Lords.

Next Sunday Philip turned up and sat below the oratorial cart biting
his nails nervously and recapitulating his speech.  He was called upon
immediately after an emancipated coal-heaver, whose jocosity had
tickled the crowd into unrest.

When Philip rose blinking and with a heart full of the most unmitigated
hatred for Harry, a gentleman adorned with a muffler and a slant Tweed
hat exclaimed ribaldly, "Crikey!  Look what's come!  Johnny, go back to
your mummy's titty-bottle!"

There was a prompt evanescence from Philip's brain of his carefully
prepared speech.  He was at that stage of nervousness which endows its
victims with a degree of courage no ordinary frame of mind could
conceivably induce.  He turned fiercely towards the humorous gentleman
and forgetting completely his brothers in the cause who were round him
on the cart, forgetting the upturned, sceptical faces of his audience,
he vented upon the humorous gentleman so turbid a stream of
denunciation, dazzled his head with such a storm of rapiers furnished
as much from his own shrill temper as from the prose of Blatchford and
the poetry of Shelley, convinced him so thoroughly that both the
continuance of the House of Lords along its bloody path of rapacity and
the putrefaction of the factories along the Mitchen River were due to
his criminal indifference and abysmal stupidity, that the humorous
gentleman straightened his Tweed hat, tied his muffler into a different
knot, buttoned all the buttons in his jacket, in the vain effort to
present as different an appearance as possible from the humorist who
had twitted the firebrand on his first appearance upon the platform.

Philip was sweating and shivering when he descended; he was, moreover,
consumed with a secret dread lest the object of his denunciations
should wait for him in a dark corner to conclude the episode in
Philip's disfavour.  The Longton secretary shook Philip's hand
respectfully as if the limb were made of a clay slightly superior to
his own.  He checked himself when he found he was addressing Philip as
"sir" and substituted "comrade."  And Philip, when he descended the
Blenheim Road, found himself booked to speak at a meeting on the
Longton croft some time ahead.

Philip instinctively realized that whatever the future held in store
for him as a speaker (but, to be candid, the glories of the Premiership
seemed speedily to dissipate), his talent lay rather in the field of
inspiration than of discipline.  He knew (and this confirmed his
orientation towards the Laureateship) that he would invariably be a
catspaw of circumstances either for success or failure, as soon as he
had laid aside the pen for the tongue.  For this reason he deliberately
withheld from the _Book of Pros and Cons for Debating Societies_ out of
which, as his friend confessed, Harry made golden capital.  As he sat
again below the cart on the evening of his second public appearance, he
made a strenuous effort to keep his mind as blank as possible.
Overhead his precedent orator was thundering.  The sanguine hues of his
bellying and flamboyant tie had already won for him half his battle.
Who could impeach the politics of a man whose neckwear flung a defiance
in the teeth of sunset and whose eloquence paled both?  With a
consistent massacre of aitches he triumphed across the turbulent field,
until at last, when he ended with "and your children will get down on
their knees and praise God that their parents took the right path!",
the crowd generally, and Philip in particular, were swept high and dry
upon the beach of enthusiasm by the wave of the man's argument.

It was impossible to be self-conscious at such a moment.  Philip sprang
valiantly on to the cart and with tremendous effect his treble, like
woodwind ardently repeating the theme of brass, reiterated "and your
children will get down on their knees and praise God that their parents
took the right path!"

There was no holding him back.  Repeatedly he brought his left fist
upon the palm of his right hand to clinch his indisputable conclusions.
The other speakers on the platform were shocked out of mere admiration
into submission to his cogency.  Harry could hardly realize that this
was the hesitant young friend who followed his lead with such
blundering perseverance, and who was, when you came to think of it,
rather a muff on the whole.  It was a stranger, small, ungainly,
irresistible.  The crowd below stared, their mouths gaping, their heads
swaying slightly to the rhythm of his gestures.

It was an incoherent enough medley, and perhaps the precocity of the
youth was more exhibited in the uncanny earnestness of his manner than
in the intellectual quality of the stuff he uttered.  The crowd he was
addressing consisted of serious artisans, night-school-educated clerks,
filmy half-existent women, whose mental development at fifty would in
all likehood not transcend Harry's at fifteen, to whom they listened
indeed, not because they were interested in his crystal arguments, but
because his wit, his adroitness, pleased them like the froth on their
evening pints.  They were therefore an easier prey to Philip's uncouth
flood of undigested emotions.  He attempted, as often as he remembered
this episode, to reconstruct his speech, to examine what potent
eloquence had carried himself away even more completely than the crowd.
He only remembered the moment when he returned to the concluding remark
of the last speaker.  "Our fathers," he began, "our fathers have tried
... I say, our fathers ... our fathers ..."

The crowd breathed anxiously.  What was happening to the young feller?
Had he seen a ghost, he was that pale?  He'd been as red as a turkey
cock only just now, he had!  There weren't no stopping him a minute
ago, and now the words were sticking in the back of his throat.  It was
a shame, it was!  It was too much to expect of a kid!  Just like these
Socialist fellers to put it across a kid once they got hold of him!
Couldn't be more than fifteen, or sixteen at the most, he couldn't!  It
wasn't good enough, don't care what you say!  He'd faint if they wasn't
careful....

But look, he was starting again.

"Our fathers have tried for all they are worth.  Your fathers and mine
have tried..."  The lad's eyes were starting from his head.  He gulped
and started again, "Have tried, I say..."

It was as if some spell of physical evocation resided in his words.
Whilst his lips were still shaping the first vowel of "fathers,"
something black and aloof and ominous had drifted from the vague
towards the limit of his audience.  A tall shining silk hat, familiar
symbol of repressions and disaster, threw a deep gloom over against his
eyes.

"Our fathers have tried..."

But his own father was here, whose love for him was like hate, and
whose hate pierced at once his son's heart and his own.  What should he
do?  It was he, of course it was he!  Whose else could those mournful
and hostile eyes be, their orbs large with a stricken indignation?
There passed across the fringe of his stupor a recollection like the
vague white wing of an owl at dayfall.  Hadn't his father said
something about going to see Dorah up in Longton this evening?  Why had
he not taken warning and kept away?  His father must have noticed from
the road some hundred yards away the gathering on the croft against the
railings of Longton Park.  He must then have determined to go home
through the croft instead of down the straight Blenheim Road, so to
discover whether the proselytized one, the forbidden Harry Sewelson,
was uttering his nefarious doctrine here, with Philip, perhaps, at his
feet.  And here he stood, his brow contracted with pent fury, biting
his upper lip!  With what dexterity of the sloping brush had he stroked
the silky fibre of his hat to-day!  How white, deathly white, was the
white bow on his stiff white front!  There were signs of white in his
black beard.  He was getting old, old.  His eyes blazed.  Old?  He was
young, proud, strong--younger than his son, young as his race, the
eternal child, the stubborn stripling that would not change nor grow
though God were visible, though the hills melted, though the stars
cried across the void "Lo! you must change or you shall die!"

In this moment with tense clarity an alternative presented itself
before Philip's swooning eyes.  He might withdraw; he had carried them
with him so clearly that they would let him go with but a sympathetic
murmur if he stammered out that he was unwell.  He could withdraw with
grace, and at the same time go to meet the inevitable trouble half-way.
There discretion pointed.  He must decide at once.

Or else, or else he could set the seal on his victories.  He would not
have uttered that dismal shout in school vainly, he would not have
recanted vainly upon that strange dim night.  He would, seeking for
courage in the very depth of his spirit, in the very height of this sky
where his father and he stood face to face, while Doomington waited,
and his race waited, he would gather together once more the reins of
his daring.  Who should withstand his horses?  Who should gainsay the
thunder of their nostrils and the death in their feet!  Was it his own
battle alone that awaited decision?  Himself, he existed no more!  The
unborn brothers of his race, the unborn children of his country, lifted
towards him their ghostly hands.  Do not desert us, they said, for in a
boy's hand lies the issue, and God is silent, waiting that a boy should
speak.  A boy was he?  A boy?  He was a man amongst the men of eld!
Isaiah was by his side!  Dimly the exquisite voice of Shelley said to
him, "Do not despair!"

What if it should break him, what if it meant he could never lift his
voice again?  Yet his voice though silent, his voice though a frail
boy's, should be voluminous on the winds of the world, and if his body
were cast aside, his heart's blood would be red energy in the hearts of
the cohorts of Joy.

His figure suddenly, with the automatic gesture of the marionette,
straightened itself.  With something of defiance he flung his chest
forward and clenched both his fists.  A wave of swift colour flushed
into his cheeks and as swiftly withdrew.  He was speaking once more.


The passion that moved the lad now was too swift merely for swift
diction.  He spoke evenly, his voice was almost a whisper.  The
black-bearded man who had stood for some moments on the edge of the
crowd, disappeared.  No one noticed him.  At last Philip dropped
loosely into the chair behind him on the cart.

For an hour or two that evening hardly a man moved from the gathering
in front of the railings of the Longton Park.

"Come to our house and have some grub!" said Harry apprehensively to
Philip, who leaned against the railings, ashen-pale.

Philip turned away wearily.  "Go away, Harry, I'm done!"  He walked
home very slowly, carefully avoiding the lines between the pavement
slabs.  He trod on the foot of a dignitary from the _Polisher Shool_,
who swore at him and spat into the street.



CHAPTER VII

When the storm had subsided, Philip felt like a sea-battered hulk,
shorn of spars, incompetent to face wind and tide.  The muscle of his
left arm suffered peculiarly.  Really, the way it had been wrenched and
bruised was almost comical.  As if his arm had espoused Blatchford and
orated on the waste croft which his father had so persistently misnamed
the "Public ways and the market-places."  Poor old muscle!  He dropped
his forearm tenderly to see if the movement did not circle the upper
arm with bracelets of fire.  He took his shirt off and licked the
coloured wound with his tongue, like an animal released from a trap.
He stared into a jagged fragment of mirror, and seeing his face so grey
and drawn burst unaccountably into a roar of laughter.  He drowned the
noise at once by biting his lip fiercely.  "The Romance of a Brachial
Muscle!"  What a fine subject for a long narrative poem in countless
cantos!  Oh, by God, he was miserable!  What was wrong with Life?  Why
were Life and he always at daggers drawn?  He recapitulated the sum of
his conscious crimes.  He had once stolen carrots from the cellar, it
was true!  But equipoise had been asserted: he had been rewarded by an
ample stomach-ache.  And finally, when physical calm had been
established, to round off his state with spiritual calm, he had bought
two penn'orth of carrots and replaced them in the cellar.  Also, he was
bound to confess, he invariably kept his book open in school during the
reciting of prepared passages.  But then the boy behind him used his
own collar as he himself used the collar of the boy in front.  It
wasn't really cheating because Gibson was such an ass in so many ways!
Anyhow there was no doubt the world hated him.  The world had always
hated him.  He had never got on with anybody in Angel Street.  He had a
filthy time at school, and then there was all this business, and oh,
hell! what a rotten arm he had!


He had determined against committing suicide.  He remembered once
saying to his mother after a row, saying with a strange mordant humour,
"Mother, I think it'll be happier for the whole family if I commit
suicide!"

"If thou what?  Speak plain!"

"Kill myself!  Throw myself in the river!"

She had made no reply.  She merely went to the sofa and sat trembling
for a few minutes.  She said "Feivel!" once, less with reproach than
raw, ugly pain.  All that day she did her housework unsteadily and said
not a word to Philip.  He hadn't liked it.  No, it was better not to
commit suicide.  It savoured too imitatively, moreover, of the _Mighty
Atom_, whom he had disliked.  Then, in addition, the wife of somebody
the watchmaker had recently tried it and succeeded.  She obviously
could have reaped no satisfaction from the episode.  If only he could
die accidentally!  Would even that make his father sorry for his
abominable treatment?  The youthful corpse would lie on the parlour
floor under a black cloth and everybody would sympathize frightfully
with his mother and be pointedly chilly towards Reb Monash.  Wouldn't
he be sick about it!  Wouldn't he ask God for another chance to behave
like a decent sort of father, but all to no use!  There would be his
son's pale and romantic corpse lying stately beneath the cloth, with
candles and things about.  "Easeful Death," one of the poets said
somewhere.  That wasn't half strong enough.  It was a triumph, a
pageant!  But it meant being carted off, didn't it, to the cold ground
somewhere, and the weepers would go away and the candles be
extinguished, and the rain would come down, and the coffin be sodden
and fall away!  That was where the worm-element came in, and with the
worm-element he could pretend no sympathy; "where the worm became
top-dog," as he had once brilliantly said in comment upon "And the play
is the Tragedy, Man--the hero, the Conqueror--Worm!"

It was at this moment that the idea of running away occurred to him.
He had lately been reading the triumphant career of a runner-away.
Harry had once recommended running away, sceptically enough, but it
would be tremendously interesting to take his casual advice seriously.
He was quite definitely conscious how melodramatic the idea was, and
just as conscious that he had already decided on its execution.  The
fellow in the book had performed no end of valiant deeds in fires,
shipwrecks and revolutions.  It was a thin book, duller even than Mr.
Henty, whom he had long ago discarded.  Of course, he was not going to
be taken in by that sort of thing, but any proposal was more
satisfactory than the shoutings and the bruised arms of which his life
now was constituted.

It was settled!  He was going to run away!  When?  Obviously now, at
once!  There was no point in to-morrow.  To-morrow would be like
yesterday.  It was evening now.  He'd set out and by the time night
came ... Oh, there wasn't any need to worry about it!  Something would
happen.  Something always happened, Yet everything was rather
frighteningly vague.  Was there any need to carry anything off with
him?  Doubtless it would be more independent and proud to go just as he
was, and he wouldn't need an overcoat for months.  Oh yes, he might as
well stick that Shelley in his pocket.  He would finish the "Revolt of
Islam," though he had tried three times already.  He lifted his injured
arm to reach the book and dropped it again, wincing.  He sat down
before his rickety table, and wrote a brief note to his mother, slipped
it into an envelope and descended into the kitchen.  He looked
mournfully and significantly upon his mother, murmuring to himself
bitterly, "If she only knew!"  He felt a disgraceful impulse to utter a
loud howl of remorse, but manfully repressed it and, realizing that
each moment in the kitchen endangered his resolution, went to the door.
As he closed the door behind him, he dropped the envelope through.

He carefully examined his feelings.  He was running away, wasn't he?
It was the most dramatic moment in all his life.  There had been
psychological crises before, but here was something palpable, dramatic.
He was putting himself into immediate communion with some of the
choicest spirits of history or legend.  Not many other chaps dared do
this sort of thing.  Then why on earth wasn't he more excited about it?
His heart ought to be storming valiantly, but its workings seemed to
respect their usual method and speed.  He only felt a little dazed and
stupid.  He was under the ridiculous impression he was only acting!
That was absurd, at such a crisis!  The vague, the vast, into which he
was adventuring, were not merely uninviting, they were, in some
inexplicable fashion, not even there.  Home and his father and his
mother and his arm, all these were realities enough, and the only
realities.  But this running away, upon which at this very moment he
was actually embarked, was a thin dream.  And here was another reality,
here was Channah coming down the street.

"Good-bye, Channah!" he said darkly.

"You're not off to a meeting?" she ventured confidently.

"Oh no!  Oh no!" he replied gloomily.  She walked on.  It was necessary
to be moving.  She would probably find the note and the finding would
lead to immediate results.  He ran along into Doomington Road, and
almost mechanically turned up into Blenheim Road.  They'd not know
which way he was going, he needn't fear that.  He slowed down and
sauntered along.  Where the devil should he go now? that question ought
to be decided.  His mind was torpid.  No sooner was the question
formulated than it passed from his mind.  Somebody was gesticulating to
a crowd on the croft.  Aimlessly he turned in that direction.  They
were talking about Tariff Reform, statistics, Poor Laws, molasses and
things.  He lacked the resolution to go further, so he stood, neither
listening nor thinking, just dull, dimly unhappy.

He felt an arm slip round his neck.  An anguished voice said, "Philip,
don't be such a donkey!  Mother's half-mad with worry, you
_meshugener_!  Is this your idea of a joke, you little fool?"

Channah must have realized which way his steps would instinctively turn.

Philip threw the arm off and turned to a dishevelled Channah.  "I'm not
a fool!  I'm dead sick of him and I'm going to get out of it!"

"Where?" she asked.

"Anywhere!" he exclaimed desperately.

"Come on now, there's a good lad!"  She got hold of his arm.  "He'll
not know anything about it if you come at once!"

"I want him to know!  Let go!  Oh, you won't, won't you?  There!"  He
wrenched his arm free.  He fled along the croft and found his sister
following in forlorn pursuit.  When he had put a safe distance between
them he turned round.  Channah was standing, wringing her hands, and
her hair, escaped from her combs and pins, flew about her head.  It
made him feel an unutterable scoundrel.  He knew that he was acting
like a fool and a blackguard!  "Come home, Philip, oh, do come home!"
her voice shrilled.

But he couldn't.  He had a little dignity after all.  He was getting on
in life and it was about time he could think out and pursue his own
plan of campaign.

"I can't!" he said.  "Give Mother my love!  Good-bye!  Tell her it's
not my fault!" he insisted anxiously.  "Good-bye!"

He followed up the road and left Channah standing blankly.  Definitely
he was running away.  An almost complete numbness now gripped his
brain.  He had a faint idea of getting out into the country but he
found himself penetrating deeper and deeper into the town.  Night was
gathering thickly over Doomington.  He felt too stupid even to be aware
of his hunger.  For hours and hours, it seemed, he walked through the
dark streets.  Indifferent people jostled him into the roadway.  Every
now and again he found his journeying had brought him before the same
ugly squat little church.  He must get out of this.  He turned off in a
direction he was certain he had not pursued before.  He found himself
in a murky hidden square, with feet heavy as blocks of stone.  Blocks
of stone seemed to be tugging his eyelids down to close over his eyes.
He was suddenly aware of a tremendous need of sleep.  There was a form
in the flagged path which led through the square.  A man and a woman
were sitting very close together on it; but there was room for him.  He
threw himself down and his head fell immediately upon his chest.  He
plunged at once into a tired sleep.  When he awoke, it was very dark
and quiet.  He remembered that there had been a man and a woman beside
him, but they had moved away!  What was it he was doing here?  Of
course, he'd run away!  What a thick heavy business it was, running
away!  How many hours ago was it since he had started?  Nothing had
happened yet.  Nothing.  He just felt foolish and extremely miserable.
Well, he must keep going till something did happen.  As he rose, he
heard the bell in the steeple over him toll hollowly.  One o'clock!
Oh, the desolate hour!  Somewhere deep in Doomington, alone, hungry,
tired, at one o'clock!  He shuffled wearily from the square and up
through one or two towering and narrow streets.  He heard a man
prowling about in a doorway.  His heart stood still with terror.  Steps
came forward and a lantern surrounded him with ghostly light.  A
policeman peered suspiciously into his face and lumbered on.  Here was
a main road.  How wide and lonely and terrible it was!  He dared not
stand still, the policeman would come after him and ask questions which
he would not be able to answer.  He must keep moving, moving, God knew
where, but moving.  His feet made an alarming sound on the deserted
pavements.  Oh, what was he doing here?  Why hadn't he waited till he
got some money from somewhere, somehow, before he ran away?  How
formidably the doorways were barred against him!  The plate-glass
windows stared leering with baleful eyes.  Some one had moved from a
side street into the main road and was coming towards him.  A lady it
was.  A real lady too, she seemed, as she came nearer and he saw the
opulent nature of her clothing.  Her skirts swished richly.  There was
a feather bobbing over the side of her hat.  Channah had only one
feather which she kept securely from year to year, dyeing it
occasionally.  There were three feathers in the lady's hat.  What was
she doing out just now?  She couldn't possibly be running away, like
himself.  She was rather fat, she ought to be quite a decent sort.  She
introduced a sense of companionship into the appalling void of night.
Joy!  She had stopped and was talking to him!

"Well, cockie!" she said, "it's rather late for a little 'un!"

"Yes, ma'am!" he said respectfully.

"Haven't you got a home?  You look all right, your clothes and that!"

"Yes, I have got a home!"

"'Xcuse my asking like, but why aren't you in it?  It's gone two, you
know!"

"Well, because ... it's because ... I ... I mean, he ..."

"Oh, I understand, cockie!" she said kindly.  "He's been and gone and
chucked you out like, eh?"

"He _hasn't_ chucked me out!" declared Philip hotly.  "I've chucked
myself out.  I've run away from home!"

"Phew!" she whistled.  "That's the ticket, eh?  You're a plucked 'un!
But what are you going to do now?"

"I don't know.  Just walk, I suppose.  I'll see!"

"I like you, sonnie, I like your voice.  Let's keep on, it'll never do
to stand in one place, they don't like it.  Just come to the lamp
there.  I'd like to look at you!"

He found that a large, warm, somewhat flabby hand had taken his own.
They walked together to a lamp.  His friend got hold of his forehead
with one hand and his chin with the other, and exposed his face to the
falling lamplight.  He caught a glimpse of the lady's face above the
heavy chain of rolled gold that lay on her bosom.  Her face was pallid
round the fringes of the cheeks and on the tip of her nose, and by
contrast, her cheeks were singularly red.  Her lips too were red, quite
unlike the red of Channah's lips and his mother's.  It was a sleepy,
fat face, rather kindly.  There was something strange about her eyes,
something like--well, funny eyes, anyhow!  Hungry eyes they were, a
little wild, yet they were sleepy and kind, too.  Surely her breath
didn't smell the least bit of beer?  No, not such a thoroughly
estimable lady!  Perhaps it was beer ... the poor lady had to take for
her health?

"Sonnie!" she said.  "You've been having a heavy time, eh?  Poor kid!
You've got nice eyes, you know!  Be careful what you do with 'em.  It
was eyes like yours what did for Bertha.  Poor Bertha!  She was a slim
lass once, Prayer Book and all, and parasol on Sundays, all complete!"

"Who's Bertha, please?"

"Hush, sonnie, hush, I'm talking!  Bertha?  Don't tell Reginald--I'm
Bertha!  He wasn't a big feller neither, what done her in!  And it
wasn't for money, anyways, _I_ can tell you.  Love it was, and it isn't
all the girls can say that!  And he went with his lips this way and
with his eyes that way, and where was you?  Yes, he had eyes just like
yours, Arthur!  Your name is Arthur, isn't it?"

"No, my name's Philip!"

"Oh, we are a gentleman, aren't we?  'No, my name's Philip!'  Haw! haw!
Your name's not Philip, see?  Your name's Arthur!  What's good enough
for him is good enough for _you_, Arthur.  So there, Arthur! ... I'm
sorry, kid, I'm not laughing at you.  You see, I'm feeling all funny
like...."  She passed the back of her hand across her forehead.  A big
bead of clammy sweat was thrust backward into the maze of her yellowish
hair.  "To tell you the honest, Arthur," she whispered, leaning over
towards the boy, "he's been and pitched me out!"  She lifted her voice.
"Pitched me out, he has, the dirty heathen, at two o'clock in the
morning!  After all the times we've had together.  Scarborough!  Oh,
Scarborough!  The waiters stand round you and says 'Lobster, ma'am,
_with_ hock?' polite as polite!  And here am I!  Not good enough for
the likes of him, ain't I?  I'll show him up!  Pitched me out...."  She
took a fluffy handkerchief from the depths of her blouse and tapped
each eye.

"I beg your pardon," said Philip with uneasy politeness, "have you had
to leave home too?"

"Home, sonnie, home?  I've got a _home_!  Oh, it's all right about my
_home_!  But now and again a night out, eh, is the goods for Bertha!
I'm one of the girls!  I'm a bird!  I'm not too particular about my
perch, though I _have_ got a little perch of my own!  But I was ...
hello!  Some one's coming!  Can you see who it is?"

"Yes," said Philip.  "It's a policeman, I think!"

She whispered into his ear anxiously.  "Listen, I'm going to be your ma
when he comes up, if he asks things.  Understand?  You've got the sick
sudden, and I thought a walk would settle your stomach.  Now...."

The policeman advanced and halted.  "Hello, missus!" he said.
"Burglars or what?"

"No, constable," replied the lady with quiet dignity, "my poor Arthur's
got a touch of the colic so I thought it best to give him a breath of
air like."  She was wiping Philip's forehead with the little
handkerchief.  "Are you feeling better now, Arthur boy?"

"Best go and stow him between the sheets, lady.  He'll catch his death
in the damp air," the policeman growled amiably, and walked away.

The situation was altogether so inexplicable that Philip clutched
feebly after the expression "I'm a bird!" as a clue which might perhaps
lead him through the maze.

"A bird?" he asked.  "Do you mean you sell birds?"

"Now you _are_ a funny kid.  No, I don't sell birds.  Leastwise, I only
sell one bird.  See?  That's a joke like.  Ec, Arthur, but I did feel
all goosy when that policeman came, didn't you?  My heart's going like
a pendulick yet, up and down, down and up.  Well, I hopes your kidneys
are better, anyhow.  But you _do_ look pale, kid!  Anything wrong!  How
old did you say you was?  Fourteen and a half?  So am I, next birthday,
ha, ha!  Fourteen and a half!  What must it be like to have a kid
fourteen and a half?  Sometimes I wishes ..."

"Have you got no children yourself, ma'am?"

"What do you mean by asking me questions, Arthur?  An honest woman like
me!  If it hadn't been for you, Arthur, and that time you kissed me
under the mulberry tree ... Remember?  Oh kid, kid, I'm all sort of
melted inside!  Is your mother still living?  She is, is she?  Does she
ever kiss you, Arthur?  Here, like this, on your lips ... like this ...
like this ... Oh, my Arthur boy!"

She had seized him round the shoulders.  Her great soft lips were
hungrily raining kisses on his own.  And her breath smelt beerily.

"Let me go!" he shouted with sudden fright.  "Who are you?  What do you
want?"  He broke away and rubbed his lips savagely with his sleeve.

She was mopping large tears from her eyes.  "Oh, I'm lonely, I'm so
lonely!" she moaned.  "He's gone and pitched me out and here's Arthur,
and he shakes me off like a dog.  Why ever was I born, God help me!"

A swift intense pang gripped Philip's stomach.  He staggered against
the wall.  Globes of red fire juggled before his eyes.

"What's the matter?  I didn't mean anything!" the woman exclaimed with
alarm.  "Tell me what's wrong!"

"I'm ... I'm ... hungry! ..." moaned Philip.

"Hungry?  When did you last have a bite?"

"Dinner-time!"

"And what have you been doing since?"

"I don't know!  I'm only hungry!"

"Oh, poor dove, poor dove!  Hungry are you?  And here was me standing
and you hungry and standing I was and talking, talking.  Come to his
own Bertha's.  Come to my little perch, Arthur, sonnie, and I'll soon
set you right.  What about a rasher, eh, and some new bread and butter
and a cup of strong hot tea?  I'll put him on his little feet again!
This way, sonnie ... Lord God, what a life is Bertha's!  It ain't far.
It's just beyond the church straight along and the second to the left
... unsteady on his legs, he's that hungry...!  Come with Bertha!"

Again Philip's hand was enclosed in the hand of the lady.  Nothing in
the world mattered except that strong hot cup of tea, that bread and
butter, that rasher, whatever a rasher was!  As they walked through the
empty streets, the kettle boiled before him on a fire of mirage, the
slaver of his hunger rimmed his tongue, the "rasher" was frying
ghostlily like a tail of fish on his mother's pan.

He heard her moaning musically over his head, like the doves in the
immemorial elms.  It was a strange farrago of Arthurs and Berthas and
mulberry trees.  He made no effort to follow the wanderings of her
mind, which now and again would reach indignantly the brick wall of her
late dismissal.  Street succeeded street blankly and he found her
shuffling at last for a key.  They entered the dark lobby of a house.

"Go quiet, kid!" she murmured, "Rosie's got a pal in the parlour
to-night, I think!"

They entered a room and the lady lit the gas, revealing a large soft
bed that dominated the apartment.  There was a table in a corner where
stood a few utensils and a portable cooking-jet on a small round of
oilcloth.

"I'll tell you what, Arthur!" she said, "You'd best undress yourself
and get into bed.  I'll get your rasher ready in a jiffy."

Philip looked shyly up to her.  He was not too faint to be unaffected
by the thought of undressing before a strange lady.  "I don't like," he
muttered.

"It's all right," she assured him, "I'm used to it!"

"Perhaps you've got boys of your own?" Philip suggested helpfully.

"Oh yes, I've got lots of boys!"

He was tremendously tired.  How invitingly that soft bed displayed its
fat pillows.  "I say, please!" he said awkwardly.  "Will you look the
other way?"

She tittered soundlessly.  He saw she had a succession of chins and
that each vibrated to her mirth.  "All right, kid, I'm getting on with
the food."  As he undressed, she cut the white bread into healthy
slices and buttered them abundantly.  Drowsily he saw her making the
tea and he was almost asleep when he heard a loud simmering in a pan.
He looked up, his mouth watering, and saw, impaled on her fork, a
semi-translucent wafer of striped meat.  He shook off the mist of
sleep.  "Tell me, if you don't mind.  Is that a rasher?"

"Of course it is!"

"What is a rasher?"

"Bless my soul, bacon, _of_ course!"

"Please, please!" he exclaimed.  "I daren't eat bacon.  I can't eat
bacon!"

"That's how it is, is it?" She came closer curiously and examined his
face.  "Hum, yes!  You're a little Jew-boy, aren't you?"

"I am!"  He wondered what it was going to mean.  Would she send him
back into the night hungry, faint to death?  Who could fathom the
attitude of a given Gentile, man or woman, towards any accidental
Jew-boy?

"Funny!" she pondered.  "One Jew-boy pushes me out and I takes another
Jew-boy in!  All right, Arthur!  Nothing's going to happen.  You're
still my own Arthur!  Don't get frightened.  But if you won't have
bacon, you can only have sardines.  I wasn't expecting no visitors
to-night."

"Anything!" he murmured weakly.

He ate greedily.  She took the food away when he had finished and sat
by the bedside, looking into his face.  She held his hand between her
own soft hands.  In two moments he was asleep.

When he awoke next morning amid the clank of trams and the calling of
boys, he found himself embraced by two great white arms.  With a sudden
shudder of realization, the events of yesterday and last night came
back to him.  The lady who had been so kind had gone into bed after
him.  It was rather stifling in the bed, he didn't like it!  He didn't
like lying in the arms of a strange lady.  A qualm of dislike passed
over him.  As gently as possible, so as not to waken her, he slipped
from her arms and from the bed and started to dress.  Her face was
distinctly unpleasant in the cold morning light.  It was heavy and
layers of fat swelled all round it.  She had been crying, for the marks
of tears ran dirtily down the bleared crimson of her cheeks.  Her hair
lay about lankly on the pillow.  Yet there was something unutterably
pathetic about her expression.  How could he show her his gratitude?
Where would he have been without her?

"It's all right, Arthur," he heard her say.  "I know you're getting up.
It's all right, just keep on dressing!"  She did not open her eyes.

"I want to thank you very much!" he said lamely.

"No, kid, I want to thank you.  I've never had it before.  I don't
suppose it'll ever come again.  If ever you tells your mother about it,
just say as Bertha thanks her.  She's a mother and she'll understand
maybe.  So long, kiddie, so long!"

He was fully dressed.  He made a movement in her direction.  "No, kid.
Don't shake my hand.  Don't touch me.  Before you have anything to do
with Bertha again, just walk into the river without looking where
you're going.  Go away, for God's sake, go away!  You'll find the front
door open!  Go back home!  Your mother wants you!"  Her unwieldy body
turned round on the bed and the great face was buried in the pillow.
He stole from the room, down the stairs, and through the front door.
The door closed behind him and he saw a milk cart drive by cheerily.
Suddenly the figure of the strange kind lady became terrible and sad
and very remote.  He turned away from her house.  Mechanically he set
his face in the direction of home.



CHAPTER VIII

If Philip's oration on the croft, despite its immediate consequences,
had been a triumph for Philip, the fatality which had irresistibly
drawn his feet homeward after his escapade with Bertha, without any
reference to his will, was a triumph, if that was not too vulgar a
word, for Reb Monash.  It made clear to both the father and the son
that Philip could not yet exist on his own initiative; however
refractory a cog he was in the machinery of the house in Angel Street,
that machinery was still the condition of his existence at all.  It was
the consciousness that this position had been made starkly clear by the
issue of this latest event, and that this latest event was itself so
tangible a grievance, that induced Reb Monash to interview Mr. Furness.
After school on that same day, summoned by a special note from the
Head, Philip stood apprehensively outside his door.  He knocked
timidly.  A tremendous bellow filled the room and came gustily out into
the corridor.

"COME in!" the first word reduplicate and reverberant like a shout in
the cleft of hills.  Philip entered, his ears singing.  But the next
moment the shout ebbed wholly from his ears when he saw Mr. Furness
rise and come towards him with a smile at once admonitory and
encouraging.

"Well, Philip, how are you?"

"I'm all right, sir, thank you, sir!"

"Who is the latest poet?  Still Shelley?  Keep to Shelley, Philip; he
knew more of the spirit of God than all the churches!"

"I've been reading Edgar Allan Poe, sir."

"Humph!  I'm not so sure!  Unhealthy, morbid!  Hard time, poor fellow,
on the other hand!  Don't overdo him!"

"No, sir!"

"But to the matter in hand.  You know why I've sent for you?"

"Yes, sir.  He told me he was coming, sir."

"Your father's a great man, Philip.  If in twenty years you're half the
man he is, I'll be proud of you.  You've been distressing him, he tells
me.  He's very concerned about you.  Come now, what's wrong?"

"I can't explain, sir.  We're different."

"You ran away from home lately and were out all night?"

Philip bit his lip.  "Yes, sir."

"You're too old for that mock-romantic sort of thing.  There's a strain
of it in your essays.  Mr. Gibson sent me up your essay on Julius
Cæsar--something about 'he shall endure while the luminaries of history
rot in oblivion!'  Luminaries don't rot.  Leave all that to the
journalists, my boy, you can do better stuff.  It wasn't only
mock-romantic, it was cruel!  Can you imagine how your mother slept
that night?  I'm rather ashamed of you.  It was selfish.  It was a
pose."

"But you don't know, sir, what had happened the day before.  I was
nearly dead."

"I can understand.  Public speaking, Socialism!  All in their time!
You're forcing things, you'll burn out and be cinders when you ought to
be a man.  No, you've not got the foundation for it.  You've been
slacking in form.  What is it you go to poetry for, do you know?"

"I can't say, sir.  Beauty, perhaps?"

"Yes, beauty!  You don't know the beauty of labour, though.  When
you've mastered your Cæsar and your Greek Grammar--dull work, my boy,
dull work!--you'll find poetry finer than Shelley, the poetry Shelley
thought made his own like a marsh-lamp, the poetry of the Greeks.  You
started well, but your place in form has been going down steadily.
Listen, Philip," he drew the boy nearer to him, "there's the question
of your scholarship.  Think what it'll mean to her if anything happened
to your scholarship.  You're not going to allow it, are you?  And if
you go down as steadily as you have been going down of late, I don't
see what else can happen.  What do you feel?"

There was a lump in Philip's throat.  "I don't want anything to happen
which will hurt her."

"Well, Philip, we understand each other.  Put your hand to the plough
like a man.  Make a clean furrow and a deep one.  I don't think we need
say more, need we?  Come and see me when you've made a fresh discovery
in poetry, we'll talk about him.  So good-bye now, Philip!"

Philip took the big man's hand and withdrew, feeling at once tearful,
chastened, and absurdly exalted, and a solemn determination now
possessed him to do some serious work before the examination which
ended the year.  Every evening he withdrew to his own back room which,
out of most unpromising materials, his mother had converted into the
semblance of a study.  She had inserted ledges into soap boxes where
his textbooks and poets were ranged above frills of pinky-white paper.
She had covered the doddering table with a neat piece of parti-coloured
cloth.  A few bright pictures from magazines were tacked upon the
walls.  In recognition of the new spirit of industry earnestly avowed
before her she substituted for the deficiently-seated chair a
rocking-chair which gave Philip an especial delight and won him to
sympathy with aorist tenses and the optative mood.  Not a word passed
between Reb Monash and Philip.  No current of sympathy ran to connect
them.  Philip displayed no readiness to compromise in the matter of a
more ardent ritual.  He would gabble off his prayers as quickly as
possible, and then, with no attempt to hide his relief, turn to his
books.  His prayers were still tolerable, if barely, during the period
when he lavished his enthusiasm on active Socialism.  Now that he began
to forswear his Socialistic delights, they began to be dust in his
mouth.  The half-hour long morning prayers of which he might understand
one word in twenty, so wrought upon his nerves, that he felt like
crying aloud sharply, particularly during that section of the devotion
when he stood towards the East, placing together the inner sides of his
feet, looking blankly through the wall into nothingness.  One morning,
during the sheer meaningless drift of his utterance, he curiously found
himself repeating something of sweet and significant import.  He was
reciting, not the torpid Hebrew, but the languorous chimes of
"Ulalume."  Delightedly he continued the poem to its end and once more
repeated it, till he realized that the time expected from him in the
recapitulation of the "Nineteen Prayers" was at an end.  He completed
his morning's devotion with "Alastor."  He had made a valuable
discovery.  The ennui of prayer was not now to gloom his faculties
thrice daily.  He could now pass in pageant before him all the comely
shapes of poetry he had known.

He at no time made the definite discovery that Reb Monash had realized
his substitution of poetry for prayer.  If Reb Monash had made the
discovery, it was not succeeded by such immediate castigation as Philip
knew well.  It was as if Reb Monash had at last found out that at the
end of these episodes the cause of piety, if anything, was weaker in
his son's bosom than before.  Darkness gathered over the house in Angel
Street.  A dim premonition of failure had settled upon Reb Monash's
eyes, but sternly he fought against it.  Mrs. Massel moved wanly and
fearfully about the house, fearful of satisfying her hunger for Philip
with a stroke of the hand or a word.  Channah stayed out as long and
discreetly as possible with her friends.  A silence hung over the
house, for Reb Monash's popularity as a raconteur was at an end.  Not
for years had the gathering in the kitchen taken place, where,
centrally, Mrs. Levine sniffed, and the tale of Rochke's interment was
told 'mid indignation and tears.  Only at night was the silence broken
when Philip had taken his books down to study in the kitchen and Mr.
and Mrs. Massel had gone to bed.  Then for an hour, or for two hours,
Reb Monash would recount the iniquities of his son in a voice of loud,
persistent monotony, still persistent while the advance of sleep was
clogging its clarity.

Peculiarly Philip resented the incident of the rocking-chair.  He had
betrayed his liking for the chair in a casual conversation, comparing
it with the inadequacy of the chair it had superseded.  He found next
day that his father had removed the chair.  It was not wanted nor used
by Reb Monash.  It was, he reflected bitterly, pure dislike of the
thought that he should enjoy even so feeble a pleasure as this.  The
action seemed almost automatic on the part of Reb Monash and was
significant of the whole relation between the father and son.

As Philip sat on the lame, cracking chair before his table, the
pointlessness of it worked him up to a white heat.  It was not merely
pointless.  It lacked dignity.  Reb Monash was the symbol of the older
world, with iron and austere traditions, with a forehead lit by the far
lights of antiquity.  But the incident of the rocking-chair stood
stupidly out of keeping with the conflict of which now Philip was
becoming intellectually conscious.

At this time, too, the domestic finances were more miserable than they
had ever been before.  The threat began to take shape that, at the end
of the year, with the conclusion of his present scholarship, Philip
would be expected to bring in his contribution to the household.  All
the more passionately, therefore, Philip applied himself to his books
in the hope of a continuance of his scholarship allowance.  Each
evening, when the big kitchen table was cleared, he descended from the
room upstairs with its meagre table and spread his books over the whole
extent of the kitchen table.  It was understood that in the
constriction of finances, Philip was on no account to work by gaslight,
a single candle being, Reb Monash affirmed, more than expensive enough.

In truth these nights were cheerless almost as a charnel-house.  It was
not merely that the ghost of his mother seemed always hovering
ineffectually about the room, as if she lifted her hands for a peace
which came not, or that his own personality surged uneasily and
wretchedly in undecided war against the immanent personality of his
father.  Presences more tangible and numerous filled the room with
detestable sounds.  Black, heavy beetles came drowsily and innumerably
ambling from the wainscotting and from among the embers of the
extinguished fire.  He could hear them crackling and rustling where the
wall-paper had swollen from the wall.  They filled him with loathing.
They were the quintessence of the ugliness of Doomington; but much of
Doomington had been charmed away for him by poetry, the beetles no
charm could exorcise.  Sometimes his hatred so swept him away that he
ran about the room, treading quashily on the hordes of beetles where
they lumbered along the floor.  But the more their black bodies burst
into white paste below his boot, the more unconcernedly they emerged
from their hiding places.  They seemed in their pompous progression to
wink and leer at him, where the dim light of the candle caught their
oily shells.  Then a nausea gripped him, his feet were sticky and
unclean, the gall churned in his body.  They crept on the table
sometimes, they dropped with a sucking thud from the bulging whitewash
of the ceiling.  Once he lifted a glass of water from the table to his
lips and found his lips in contact with the body of a beetle on the
rim.  That night he was so wild with terror that he lit the
gas--unconscionable extravagance, but as he sat feebly in the chair, he
could hear the foul battalions rustling, whispering, smirking towards
their chinks.

His eyes had always been weak.  The working by candle-light gave him so
much pain that he now formed the habit of lighting the gas when the
last syllables of the monologue upstairs had died away.  One night he
left the kitchen-door open and the light staggered out into the hall.
A dim beam thrown upward somehow attracted the attention of Reb Monash,
who had ceased intoning that night more from weariness than sleep.  A
shout of anger filled the house.  Tremblingly Philip extinguished the
gas and pored aching over his texts by dim candle-light.  It was with
infinite caution, and when his eyes stood almost blindly in his skull,
that now he ventured to light the gas.  More than an hour after
midnight on one occasion he stood on the table and applied the candle
to the gas-jet.  It was a heavy and oppressive night, but he had much
work to do; the examinations were at hand.  Again a long time passed.
The sweat stood clammily on Philip's head.  His lungs gaped for air.
He placed a chair against the door and held it half-open, so that,
while a little light escaped, a little air came in.  Once more he
buried himself deep in his work.  Wearily his eyes went on from page to
page.  He entered almost into a trance of dull pre-occupation with the
lifeless books.  Nothing existed for him beyond the poor round of
grammar, dictionary, text, notebook.  Life was neither a freedom nor a
slavery; it was a concentration upon unimportant importances, emptily
insistent upon themselves.  The sense which informed him that Reb
Monash stood at the door was neither sight nor sound.  He was _aware_
of his presence.  His heart seemed to flicker hesitantly down the
depths of his being, until it left a blank behind his ribs, where a
mouth entered whose teeth were fear and pain and anger.  Anger!  Surely
it was not right for any man, in any relation, let alone a father, to
steal like a criminal from his bed, soundlessly, terribly, and stand
there with shut, pale lips!  There were limits to the methods correct
in the most comprehensive fatherhood.  And his crime?  He was doing his
work, nothing more than his work!  His tongue was chafed and sick.
Perhaps it was an illusion after all.  Surely he was alone, he had
heard nothing.  He lifted his eyes.  The actual physical presence of
Reb Monash struck him sharply and heavily like a blow on the cheek.  He
gasped with fright.  He stood there forbidding and dark, but a strange
light round him and his dim nightclothes.  He was supernatural.  He
stood there taut with hate.  He said not a word.  Philip's jaw relaxed,
his eyes staring dazed into his father's eyes.  They stared at each
other across a gulf of deafening noise and of ghastly silence.  Whose
feet had brought him down silent as death from his bed, who invested
him with that cadaverous power?  Illimitably beyond him stretched
ancestral influences into the bowels of time.  There was one slipping
away, fruit of their loins, one for whom each had been a Christ
crucified, slipping from the fold of their pride into the pagan vast.
Behind the boy's head boyish presences groped towards him....

The spell was snapped by a hurried pattering of feet downstairs.  The
scared face of Mrs. Massel appeared.

"What dost thou mean?" she wailed, "what dost thou mean?  Go!  Touch
him not!  He might have died with fright!  What art thou?  What dost
thou mean by it?"  She had at last asserted herself.  With weak hands
she pushed him away from the door.  "Come, leave the boy!  He will go
to bed at once!  See, his face is like a tablecloth!  Come, oi, oi,
come!"

"Go thou in front!" said Reb Monash.  He entered the kitchen, where
Philip cowered on his chair.  He turned out the gas and without a word
went upstairs to his room.  A dull idiocy numbed Philip's brain.  He
put his head down between his hands, and it slipped before long on to
the table.  Here Mrs. Massel found him after some hours when she came
down to light the fire.  As he shook himself, a beetle fell sleepily
from his sleeve.



CHAPTER IX

Some time previously, in the spring of the same year, the walls of
Doomington had fallen to their last stone upon the blast of the
trumpets of spring.  Philip and Harry had adventured one afternoon
beyond the moor called "Baxter's Hill" at the north of the town and
found themselves by the side of a Mitchen distinctly cleaner than the
river which flowed behind the wire factory at the bottom of Angel
Street.  They had walked up-stream for several miles out to a place of
fresh fields and young lambs skipping.  It was true that chimneys still
punctuated every horizon with smoky fingers.  But here and there were
thickets of trees where the lads lay embowered in green peace,
conscious of thick grass only and the speech of leaves.  They both
claimed the distinction of having first sighted the shimmering and
enchanted carpet of blue below a sun-pierced canopy of foliage.  Here
they abandoned themselves to the first wild rapture of Spring--the
first rapture of Spring Philip had known--burying their faces among the
dewy bells.  Further and further to the dusk they went, until a new
town, flinging its van to meet them and to meet the Spring in their
button-holes and hearts, said, "Advance no more!"  Weary and sleepy and
very hungry they came home that night, but their arms were lush with
heaped bluebells and the knowledge of Spring was steady in them.  They
knew a place where Doomington was a lie and earth was soft.

Into this place, in the attenuated figure of Alec Segal, the "clever
devil" whose acquaintance Philip had made several months ago, came
Atheism.  The recent years of his history had not left Philip wholly
unprepared for the assault against Judaism.  But when Segal said
casually that the Holy Bible's self was just a bundle of musty papyri,
and God a dispensable formula, he was painfully shocked.

"Look here, Segal!" he said, "How can you say such a thing?  Anything
might happen to a chap!"

Segal took off his cap and made an awkward gesture towards the implicit
deity.  "Right-ho!" he exclaimed, "Happen away!"

Philip held his breath for a moment.  Nothing took place.  Only a cow
mooed contentedly.

Segal was slightly taller than Harry and a little his senior.  The
angle of his nose related him more directly than either of his two
friends to the root stock of his race.  Yet he had neither the
Heinesque vehemence of the one nor the inveterate romance of the other.
He could, in fact, hardly be thought of in terms of character.  He
seemed to be the sum of certain intellectual qualities.  His sole
morbidity was a ruthless passion for logic.  Poetry, which in various
ways had brought the three youths together, interested him, but neither
for ethical nor for æsthetic reasons.  Each poem was an interesting
proposition in itself, like a mixture in a test tube at his school
laboratory.  It had the mechanical attributes of rhythm and rhyme and
metaphor constructing a mechanical whole.

But on thinking the matter over, after frequent and painful discussion,
Philip realized that Segal's attitude so shocked him because it dared
to put into blunt words something he had long been timorously feeling.
By the Bible, of course, Segal meant religion generally.  The Bible was
the foundation of Judaism and therefore of Christianity, which, he had
long ago decided, in any case hadn't much claim to serious
consideration.  His own remark had been sound enough; he had declared
that the disappearance of religion would leave the world "jolly empty."
But empty of what things?  Empty as a garden without weeds.  What
stupidity, cruelty, ignorance, flourished below the damp boughs of
religion from border to border of the world!  And what things would
still flourish if religion were cut down!  Tall trees of liberty, fine
flowers of poetry!

What was it he had always felt wrong with Judaism?  What did it lack?
It was a quality not entirely missing even from the garbled
Christianity that came his way.  The Baptist Missionary Chapel was as
fervent an enemy of this quality as the most vigorous Judaism.  But dim
intimations had come by him on the wind of another Christian spirit.
Here there were white lilies and blue gowns pointed with stars; there
was soft singing at evening and the burning of many candles; there were
superb altars, marble and kingly.  Superb altars--the Baptist
Missionary Chapel!  Christianity contained both.  But this quality was
eternally triumphant in the grand false superstitions of Greece and
Rome.  Here there were white pillars in a noon of hyacinth; baskets of
wrought gold held violets and primroses; there were processions of
chiselled gods before whom maidens scattered a long foam of petals;
there were lads running races and the wind was in their hair; the wind
was a god, there were gods in the thickets of olive and in the
translucent caves of the sea.

Beauty!  Poetry!  This was what he needed most.  This was what that old
world gave.  What delight did his fathers know, generation beyond
generation, in the comely things of the world?  What statuary had come
down and what pictures of burnished gold and azure?  What dances were
there to the rising sun and in procession with the slow stars?  If any
of his fathers had made him a graven image, he was stoned and the
thunders of those hoary enemies of lovely things shook over the
cowering tribes.  There had descended to him a tradition of tragedy and
pride.  Of beauty, none.  There was, for example, the _shool_.  How the
air was foetid!  How the walls were bare!  How the hangings before the
ark were tawdry!  How the prayers were raucous, how the air drooped for
lack of poetry!

Ah! the sense of relief which began to possess him when now, throwing
forward his chest, and breathing even in midmost Doomington the deep
air of liberty, he realized how vain were all his innumerable
ceremonies; that God did not require of him these things and these; He
did not sit there watchfully counting the syllables of prayer His
votaries uttered, sit there like a miser counting his pieces of gold;
that the subterfuges and evasions of ritual which had given him
frequent unease were not fraught with more than a merely local and
temporary danger.  Forward from phylacteries!  They had slipped from
his arms like manacles.  They lay discarded like the slough of a
serpent, coiled round his feet.  What there was now of poetry in the
Feast of Tabernacles, in the prophetic and vague beards of the old men,
in the synagogue-chanting on darkening Saturday evenings, in the
mingled array of the Passover Tables, in the puckered faces of the
antique women muttering their year-long prayers, in the blast of the
liberating horn upon the Fast of Atonement--what there was of poetry in
them, he was free to understand; for they were shorn of all that had
made them forbidding; they were not symbols of dark terror, they were
pathways into the heart of the world.  And with these he was free to
understand what there was of poetry in the vague Christian lilies, in
the burning of candles before the shrines of picturesque saints,
brothers of those other and marble gods.  All that these Greek gods had
of poetry and all their groves and their broad-browed morning lads and
the virginal worshippers before those altars of poetry--all, all these
things were his.  He was winning to freedom after much slavery.

But the acceptance of a general diminution in the divine attributes,
through which the Godhead gradually became a vague half-credible
abstraction, was attended by a campaign much more injurious to Philip's
ease.  His elders had approached God with as much terror as
understanding when they made any advances in the celestial direction.
It was reassuring to realize that if God was being divested of His
raiment of love, He was losing proportionately the lightning of His
jealousy and the bolt of His somewhat sectarian wrath.  Yet
simultaneously, as Segal and Harry agreed with no apparent remorse, it
was imperative to abandon the immortality of the soul.  To Philip there
was something homicidal, matricidal, in the facile way with which they
consigned to worms as their ultimate doom the folk whom they might be
expected to love most dearly.  They admitted it was an unpleasant pill
to swallow, but in the wind of truth their personal predilections, they
avowed, were as chaff!  Who were they to stand up against Logic,
against Law?  "Truth the grand," a poet had said, "has blown my dreams
into grains of sand!"

Segal remained imperturbable amid the crash of boyish comfort and
illusion.  His own extinction being the disintegration of a number of
acute faculties, there would be no wraith of frustrated passion and
insatiate hungers to move forlornly through the Godless void.  There
was a keen, bright fascination in this self-sufficiency for both the
tempestuous utilitarianism of Harry and the inchoate poetry of Philip
for whom this friendship involved almost a pungent ecstasy of
self-extinction, like the repeated assault of the moth against the
poised, unreluctant flame.  These conclusions plunged Harry into a more
fiery round of Socialistic activities than he had yet known.  If the
oppressed classes of the world would in no future state achieve
equality, if the capitalists in no democracy of spirits would be set by
counter-balance to hew wood and draw water for wage slaves there
triumphant, all the more reason then to achieve an earthly Utopia, to
rouse young Doomington to a sense of its manifold wrongs and, in the
concrete, to stand as Socialist candidate for the coming parliamentary
election at the Highfield Grade School.  Philip, on the other hand,
felt what happened in this miserable and abortive world hardly
mattered, when all its insignificant schemes were doomed, collectively
and individually, to sudden and absolute annihilation.  The extinction
of souls was not an attractive philosophy, he reflected bitterly, but
there seemed no alternative but to accept it as a general truth.  Not
wholly consciously and with a passionate stupidity he applied three
individual cases to the test of the general assertion; the survival of
Shelley's soul, his mother's and his own.  What arguing could there be
about these three and, least of all, about Shelley's.  His mother's
death and his own being so utterly incredible, so much _contra
naturam_, their souls existed in an ether beyond all jeopardy.  Yet
Shelley was demonstrably dead.  But was he dead indeed?  He realized
now for the first time how Shelley was the _lar_ of all his years.  He
might vaguely and unhappily acquiesce in the destruction of souls _en
masse_, but nothing could convince him that Shelley did not triumph,
personally, separately, in the clouds of morning and ride the horses of
the wind; that he was not still the conscious spirit of song wherever
birds and waters sang; that the pyre had dissipated for ever that
unconquerable spirit.

Such then was the dubious and difficult current of Philip's atheism.
And it was a strange fortune that these speculations should most have
waged war within him at that period of the Jewish year when the
festivals which culminate in the New Year and the Day of Atonement
demanded unusually frequent attendance within the walls of the
_Polisher Shool_, the inner temple of phylacteries, where Philip still
so long and so frequently was held captive.

The worshipper entered the synagogue through a narrow door to the left
of an establishment for fried fish and chips.  The odour, therefore, of
these commodities rising through the building interpenetrated the
atmosphere of prayer, until prayer and chipped potatoes became
inextricably woven together, and at no period in his life could Philip
pass beyond a fried fish shop without feeling a far-off refluence from
the old call to worship.  Indeed, Philip's earliest anthropomorphism
represented the Deity as some immense celestial figure in white cloth
and a white hat standing above the fume and splendour of a great
concave oven where He shovelled upon his tray the souls of human
beings, brown and crisp, and resembling mystically the strips of
potatoes shovelled by Mr. Marks upon a less divine tray in a chip-shop
less august.

The worshipper now climbed a narrow staircase, and passing by the
women's door entered the synagogue proper.  If he had endured some
recent loss in his family, the beadle from within would declare
robustly, "Look ye towards the bereaved one!" who would enter with
drooped head, the object of the regulated curiosity of bearded and
beardless alike.  Only a thin wooden partition divided the women's from
the men's section, so that on one side praise was lifted to the Lord by
the women because He had made them what they were, on the other, in
unabashed juxtaposition, heartier praise was lifted by the men because
He had made them men.  Little boys could stand quite easily upon the
forms and look down upon the women swaying in their old black silks and
beneath their crazy cherry-garlanded bonnets.  Here stood the
_rebitsin_, Serra Golda, the most pious and wrinkled of Hebrew woman,
who, because it is a _mitzvah_, an act of grace, to stand as long as
possible during the Day of Atonement, stood all that hot long day on
her ulcered feet, even though the mere creeping from her own dun
parlour not far away had been one hard agony.  Here too stood Mrs.
Massel, very quiet and shy among the voluble women, wiping her eyes
sometimes and repeating the prayers quietly, or perhaps, becoming
conscious of the dark watchful scrutiny of her boy beyond the
partition, lifting to him her face for one sweet moment and dropping it
again towards her Prayer Book.

Against the centre of the Eastern wall, which was at right angles with
this partition, stood the Ark wherein the Scrolls of the Law reposed
among mothy velvet, themselves enveloped in a petticoat of plush whence
hung silver bells.  The whole Ark was curtained by a pall of scarlet,
lettered with gold thread.  At the centre of the masculine section
(whose dimensions were some fifty by forty feet) stood the pulpit, some
inches above the general level, where the whole service was incanted
and the occasional auxiliaries from the audience were summoned.  Below
the pulpit and facing the Ark, a coffin-like desk drawn closely against
their amplitudes, sat the elected officers for the year, the _parnass_
and the two _gabboim_.  Reb Monash, the power of whose oratory was so
signal an ornament to the _Polisher Shool_, sat upon the right-hand
side of the Ark itself, against the wall.  The benches ran parallel
along the _shool_ on both sides of the pulpit.  In the strict, if
uncongenial, interests of truth it is necessary to say that every
member of the synagogue above the age of thirty spat, and not a few
below that age, these last retaining the easier hygiene of Poland and
further Europe.  The more honourable worthies had their own particular
joints in the boarding for their expectorations, although, if they were
more than usually afflicted, they would proceed to the doorway,
returning thence purged.  Hence experience alone was an adequate pilot
for an unscathed journey between any point of the synagogue and the
door.  There were times when such tender breasts as Philip's were so
nauseated by the persistent spitting that their hearts seemed to
suspend beating from sheer sickness.  On two occasions Philip's head
fell back bloodlessly and with a bang on the hard wood behind him and
he was taken away to the lavatory, where several men and women filled
their mouths with water and cascaded his face for some minutes until he
opened his eyes.  No season in the year was hot enough to justify the
opening of the windows.  A current of the comparatively clean air from
Doomington Road was declared with horror to be "A draught!  A draught!"
and with patriarchical fury the windows were closed to.  Sometimes on a
particularly sultry day an enterprising youth might open a window for
several inches without drawing the attention of the elders.  It would
be unobserved for perhaps half an hour as no slightest movement of air
was created.  Then the alarm would be given.  Immediately angry shouts
of "A draught!  A draught!" would be heard, some would huddle their
arms in the cold, some would cough vehemently in the blizzard of
self-suggestion.  Occasionally the younger generation might make the
effort to stand up shoulder to shoulder for the rights of ventilation,
but so furious a hubbub would be created, the unease spreading itself
into the women's department where a clucking would be heard as of an
apprehensive farmyard; but especially the thunders of Mr. Linsky would
be so olympically august, that the younger generation would subside and
once more the opaque odours coagulate.

The _Polisher Shool_ was, it may be deduced, a somewhat reactionary
institution.  But occasionally Reb Monash was called upon to deliver an
oration in a synagogue of such Æsculapian sanity that the atmosphere
seemed positively to evoke the vacant silence of Gentile worship.  The
definitely English congregations were assembled actually in superseded
chapels, and here the laws of ventilation were no less rigorous than in
the offices of the Doomington Board of Health.  But these lacked the
element of personality with which the _Polisher Shool_ was perhaps too
copiously endowed.  And if all his life Philip had not been made
unceasingly conscious of the dislike entertained for him in cordial
measure by the body politic of the synagogue, he would have derived
much consolation from the study of its personalities, of the rotund Reb
Yonah, of Reb Shimmon like an army with banners, and the wizened
_shammos_, the beadle, flapping about on loose soles like a
disreputable ghost.

Philip's attitude towards _shool_ was immediately prejudiced on his
mere going thither.  For almost from earliest times, not appreciably
long, it seemed, after he had discarded the blue wool and tassels of
infancy, he had been expected to crown his small figure with a large
black bowler hat; and bowler hats, as could not be denied, were
_bloody_.  He felt stupidly self-conscious as he walked along by his
father's side, as if all Doomington stared and jeered.  If Reb Monash
met a friend and these pursued a common way to the synagogue, Philip
would hover behind, remove the bowler hat, and pretend it was somebody
else's--he was only "holding it like."

There was a brood of young gentlemen very popular among their elders at
the _Polisher Shool_.  There was Hymie, whose eyes were large and
innocent and who helped himself daily from his father's till.  His
voice was the voice of an exceptionally guileless thrush and he sang
Yiddish songs at _Shalla-shudos_, the Saturday afternoon gatherings.
There was Moishe, who asked such clever questions so sweetly concerning
the weekly portion, that they were answered with delight by the
expository old men, excepting when, as they somewhat frequently did,
they involved sexual references.  Moishe's mind was prematurely a
cesspool.  Others also there were to whom piety was a paying
proposition, and two were pious because they were thus made.  Philip
could not throw in his lot with this company.  And the whole _shool_
remembered how the synagogue-president, the _parnass_, had, some years
ago, pressed him to drink of the Sabbath night cup of wine; how Philip
had refused it both because he didn't like wine and because he didn't
like a public exhibition of a deed tinged with piety; how the pride of
the _parnass_ had been aroused and how he endeavoured to force the wine
between Philip's lips while the whole _shool_ awaited the issue; how
Philip had suddenly thrust aside the foot of the beaker so that the
wine fell stickily round the respective trousers of himself and the
_parnass_.

Philip felt instinctively how everybody stiffened with dislike when he
entered the synagogue, a dislike accentuated by the universal honour
with which his father was regarded.  Had he but been the son of a
bootmaker, the Judaic virtues would not have been so prominently
expected from him; they would have said "a bootmaker remains a
bootmaker, even to his remote posterity!"  But being the son of Reb
Monash, whose black hair and beard his son was even now dimming with
disastrous grey, Philip was a public scorn.

All which did not embarrass Philip so much as the interminable hours he
spent behind the shut windows in the stale air--while bluebells lilted
afar off and birds spoke their foreign exquisite languages.  And now
above all a widening had thrust his horizon far away and far away from
the smoky limits of Doomington, far from the mythic circuit of green
waves wherein England lay, far from the last hills of the world, out to
the tingling spaces and the royal stars.

For Segal, who had brought the dissolution of atheism with him, had
brought also astronomy: with a singing for the quiet sun and a meaning
for the hollows of sky.  It was, of course, a long time now that for
both Philip and Harry the flat layer of earth had dropped away, coiling
round themselves to produce the globe they had seen in effigy, so far
back as the days of Miss Green.  But Segal introduced, as
preliminaries, Sir Robert Ball and Proctor and Camille Flammarion, and
a knowledge of constellations, the nature of nebulæ, star dust and the
Milky Way, which united the three boys with a bond of fervent interest.
For Segal it meant illimitable fresh spaces for the plummet of logic;
and because Space was infinite, no room was left for God, who, if He
existed at all, could thus only be attenuated into nothingness.  Harry
dreamed of an undiscoverable planet where equity among its mortals
prevailed; for in the infinite types of star which space permitted
through infinite time, it was evident that one such star had been or
was or might be developed; it was to this ideal star that he hitched
the lumbering wagon of earth.  To Philip, the Milky Way was a divine
bluebell bank dancing by the borders of a celestial river.  The stars
fed him with innumerable new images, giving to his conception of poetry
a depth and height.  And here once more, as if to consummate the
significance Shelley had involved through each succeeding phase of
Philip's adolescence, just as he had been found to crystallize a world
in which complete escape from Doomington mud and brick might be
realized; to hold the stormy banner of Socialism; to smite down the
hydra-heads of religion; so now Shelley was seen to be a poet to whom
the fields of stars were more naturally a place for wandering and
singing than deathly fields of sorrel and marguerite; he was the Starry
Poet.


"I say, you chaps!" Harry said excitedly one day, "there's a telescope
in the Curiosity Shop opposite the gaol!  What about it?"

"The inference being," suggested Segal, "that as soon as we've pinched
the telescope the gaol's waiting on the other side of the road?"

"No, old Cartwright's too watchful and the gaol too uncomfortable.
Didn't you say so yourself when you came out after your last six
months' hard?  What about clubbing together and buying it?"

"I've got fourpence!" said Philip.

"I've not got that!" said Segal.  "But let's find out about it.  It's
just the thing we want.  Ye Gods, we might find a new comet!  Beware,
Halley!"

They appeared at Mr. Cartwright's shop and asked the price nonchalantly
of a set of chessmen.  "And what's the price of this telescope?" asked
Harry with such an exaggerated gesture of indifference that Mr.
Cartwright could not fail to perceive the yearning of his bowels.

"A quid!" said Mr. Cartwright.

It was so shattering a sum that, whereas they would have attempted
bargaining if he had said, "Three-and-sixpence," they now said
brokenly, "All right!  We'll buy it."

Mr. Cartwright was so astonished at this acquiescence that, taken
similarly off his guard, "You can have it for twelve bob!" he gasped.

"O--er--I'm sorry!  We've not got more than three just now!  We'll save
up the rest!"

Quick change of tactics on the part of General Cartwright, who has time
to recover his breath.  "All right!" he declared, mouth tight at the
corners, "Leave that as a deposit and I'll reduce the price to eighteen
and six!" he said munificently.

Hence the telescope, which, though its actual magnifying powers were
somewhat scanty, served both as an outward symbol of their devotion to
stars and moon and as the token of their friendship.  A new experience
now entered their lives, a state, an exaltation, a mystic absorption of
themselves into the heart of night from which the logician was by no
means immune and which he anticipated with as much fearful joy as his
friends.  It was called "going deep," and was a state which they could
not cajole or anticipate but came when it listed and departed as
mysteriously.  It was the fine flower of their friendship, coming only
at night during their contemplation of skies.

They would find as they talked of Cassiopeia or the far-flung wing of
Aquila or Vega's blue swords or the misty Pleiad sisters, a thinning of
their own voices, a growing outward and aloft.  It seemed that the hulk
of body lay supine on the grimy soil of Doomington while their souls
quietly adventured among the high places.  It was an ether where
extremes met, the young logician carried along a steep straight line by
the inherent ecstasy of Law to a place where, by different curves of
passionate imagination, his friends had ascended mysteriously those
ladders of poetry between earth and heaven.  It was perhaps a shadow of
that state of fleshly innocence towards which the mystics have yearned,
that state which Adam supremely knew when Eve had not yet been torn
from his side.  It was a state doomed to last not long, to re-occur
less frequently as the mists began to cloud their eyes insistently and
to stifle in their ears the clarity of starry silence.  They did not
know how long a time lasted their "goings deep"--some moments only,
perhaps, sometimes a dim trance of a fleshless hour.  But when they
descended from those places, their chaffings and bickerings were
resumed with difficulty, as if their bickering gainsaid a stilled voice
they had heard.

One incident each of them remembered most clearly out of this time of
astronomy--the night of the moon's eclipse.  With various degrees of
difficulty they obtained permission to stay out till morning, and at
midnight they met upon the highest point of Baxter's Hill.  A moorland
air came wandering in from the adjacent country, and because the
chimneys had ceased for the night to thicken the atmosphere, this
strange sweet air came timidly towards them, as a stranger little
welcomed in these parts.  They lay back upon the grass looking towards
those regions of the sky where the moon did not yet dim the stars to
extinction.  The telescope passed from hand to hand and they spoke of
the ashen hollows in the moon, Segal naming her features, and
emphasizing placidly how, soon or late, this earth whereon they lay now
should have exhausted all her fires.

Very quietly they spoke in the still night air until a sound of terror
was heard from some hidden hollow and the words were stricken on their
lips.  The sound was heard again and again, curdling their blood.

"A woman's being murdered somewhere!" exclaimed Philip.

"Baxter's Hill has got a dirty reputation.  I wonder if a fellow's
trying to get the better of a girl?" Harry whispered.

"Listen!  Isn't it a rotten sound!"

The truth occurred to Segal.  "You prize fools!  Oh, you ultra prize
fools!" he cackled.  "It's a sheep!  Ha, ha!  A sheep!  And you're two
more!"

They found the midnight full of curious noises in which man and his
works had no concern.  An owl hooted.  A nightjar skimmed an edge of
darkness silently, then turned his hoarse wheel.  Insects crepitated
below grasses.  The boys had little known how the watchful forces of
nature crept back to the place Doomington had usurped when, during the
night, the town's fumy power was relaxed.

When at last the dark band of eclipse sliced the rim of the moon,
Philip was drowsing.  Harry seized him suddenly.  Philip sprang to his
feet.  "Look!  Look!  The moon!  The eclipse!"

Slowly the transformation took place.  The three lads stood there
tensely straining towards the moon.  It seemed that the world had no
sound during this breathless miracle.  No owl cried and no sheep lifted
a voice from the hollows.  The moorland wind stopped, the scant grasses
did not move.  A train in a far cutting uttered a startled cry and
subsided.  Until out of the white purity was made a disk of lurid and
burnished splendour, like the bossed shield of a Titan who strode
across space while the issues were still dubious of celestial wars.

The lads waited on the moor till dawn came, so that the fringe of that
night should not be sullied by their return to Doomington dust.  Dawn
came with a cool breath from the East and a line of pale green lying
like a blade on the far-seen Mitchen.  A sword was swung above the
slopes, glancing with gold and crimson.  The edge of the sun was at
last visible.  The boys made their way homeward along the quiet streets.


As Reb Monash ascended the pulpit on the second morning of _Rosh
Hashonah_, the New Year festival, to deliver a _drosheh_, an oration,
in his capacity as professional orator or _maggid_, the incidents of
the eclipse were hazily passing through Philip's mind.  For some time
Reb Monash's utterance was calm and measured, not interfering with the
flow of Philip's recollections.  But a sudden note of passion rising
and again falling away flickered across Philip's brain, as a vein of
fire smoulders with the turning of an opal, and when the opal is turned
away is swallowed in pearl-mist and blue.  He was occupying the seat
vacated by his father against the side of the Ark.  He looked up
towards Reb Monash who again was speaking abstractly, evenly, as if he
were finding his way somewhither.  There was still on his face a
certain air of preoccupation which Philip had noticed all that morning.
It had been a morning signalized also by a few low kind words he had
said to Philip which had touched the boy curiously; and, at one moment,
he had looked sombrely, gently, into his son's eyes, placing a hand on
his shoulder as if to hold him back from the darkness towards which his
steps were tending.  Philip had looked back uneasily into his eyes,
wondering.  A shadow of so much sadness in his father's face had
produced a sick yearning in the deeps of the boy's body.  His own eyes
had filled strangely, but he had clenched his fists and set his teeth.
His father had turned away from him and walked back into the
_chayder_....

Reb Monash standing in the pulpit became mysteriously depersonalized.
He became a force capable at one moment of bringing tears to the eyes
of his harshest listeners and the next of convulsing them with
laughter.  Philip realized from what deep well of oratory sprang that
runlet which had burst forth upon the Longton croft from his lips.  In
the pulpit Reb Monash lost sight of his personal sorrow and became the
voice of the age-long sorrow of his race.  At such a time he stood like
a bard, his _tallus_ hanging down in great folds, his voice of such
strength and sweetness that a weeping came from the women's section
upon its first syllables.

The first part of the morning's oration proceeded on traditional lines.
He subtly interwove the text he had chosen with the message of the
festival now celebrated.  Upon single words he threw such diverse and
strange lights that they were opened up gallery beyond gallery, like a
mine of meanings.  Each sentence was illuminated by his inexhaustible
fertility of quotation, each quotation prefaced by the "as it stands in
the passage."  He elaborated each point by a swift "_zu moshel_," to
give a parallel.  But all this skill was the routine of the _maggid's_
profession; he had graduated with these arts in many schools.  He was
proceeding further than this; his voice still was subdued, patient, as
if realizing that beyond these thickets was a clearing of intense
light, if but steadily he made his way.  Then suddenly he emerged from
the tortuous paths and the tangle of undergrowth, with a loud resonant
cry as he came upon the clear space at the centre of his heart.

"But is it truly the beginning of the year?  Shall it be a rejoicing
for our fathers and for our sons if the birth of to-day is not a birth
but a death?  _Hayom harras olom_!  But think, my brothers and my
sisters, into what world the Year, the Law, came first!  For the world
was void and dark, and the spirit of God moved upon the waters, and the
spirit of God was the Law.  The godlings were of stone and of wood whom
you would kick and they were fallen down, and their number was the
sands of the sea.  Then to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob the one
God vouchsafed Himself and in His book His breath is fire.  How He was
gracious to our fathers beyond all their deserts when, recollecting the
impieties of Egypt, they made themselves a false God, a Calf of Gold.
But yet He did not abandon them, nor in after times.  Always he held
out His right arm over them, yea He shattered the gathered enemies,
even with the jawbone of an ass He shattered them.  Whole races of the
godless were destroyed in His love for the Law He had uttered and the
Chosen People to whom He had entrusted the Law.  Then our parents fell
upon evil ways, they took to themselves the daughters of the Gentile,
they no more circumcised their sons into the company of the Chosen.
Too many, too many to tell were the sorrows that came down upon us.
Our vineyards were taken away, our crops were wasted, our daughters
stolen away from us.  The gold and the ivory of Solomon's temple were
despoiled, the Holy City was a waste of weeds.  Yet once more in His
goodness Jerusalem arose and once more in their hardness of heart the
people sought the false gods: until the accursed Titus came upon us and
the walls for ever fell.  By the waters of Babylon, we sat down and
wept; yea, we wept when we remembered Zion; we hanged our harps on the
willows in the midst thereof.  But lo, my brothers, do not weep; my
sisters, one thing was left to us, as a tabernacle in the wilderness, a
dove on the void of waters, a sword in our right hand, a burning bush;
that Law which each year begins and ends but has no ending.  For upon
it once again when the years of the _gollus_ are numbered shall the
Temple be rebuilt.  Yea, when the trumpet shall sound, the corpses of
the Chosen shall be awakened; they shall rise from their graves and
roll from the scattered lands, beyond seas and hills, once more to the
hills of Zion.  How shall the gems on the breast of the High Priest
shine and his garments be of dazzling white!  How a Miriam shall sing a
sweeter song on further shores of deeper waters and more divinely
cloven than the waters of the Red Sea!  Then at last shall Moses arise
from his undiscovered grave to enter that land he had but seen afar
off.  The land shall be flowing with milk and honey and the grapes on
the vines be fat.  Our matrons shall be fruitful with blessed children
and our daughters be glad.  The Law shall be as a sign upon the
forehead of our sons.

How it shall all be forgotten, the valley of the shadow, the centuries
of _gollus_!  Did our fathers lie on the rack of the Spaniards and were
their thumbs torn from their hands?  It shall be as a mist of ten years
gone by.  There were they crouched in cellars, old _bobbies_ leaning
against the damp walls, an old _zadie_ reading by the little candle of
the goodness of the God of Israel.  The boys looked up listening with
shining eyes.  There was the sound of bursting doors, but the old voice
did not falter.  There was the clatter of iron boots down the stone
stairway; but there was no ceasing in the praise of God.  And though
the old men, the women, yea, the children sucking still quietly at
their mothers' breasts, were tied against stacks of wood, and the flame
withheld if they but forswore Israel, still was the Law to them like a
cool cavern full of the fragrance of God, even in the very centre of
fire.

_Pogrommen_ have there been in those lands whence we have come?  Who
shall remember them?  Though the babies were torn from the wombs of
mothers, and maidens violated in the streets at noon, all shall be,
because the Law has been given to us, as dust in the roadway!

But hold!  What do I say?  If once more the children of Israel shall
build them a Calf of Gold, if they shall turn to the heathen things,
who shall keep back the lightnings of God, our God strong in love but
terrible in jealousy?  Shall not we be utterly swept away till there is
no memory of our defeats and no trace of our victories?  Shall it all
be vain, the rack, the fire, the mother disembowelled in pregnancy?

I say to you, look at our children, for a bad spirit has come into
these lands.  I say not to you, our brothers and sisters, but to you,
to you, our children, keep ye your goings within the fold of the Law!
Have you need then of pogroms and swords that you shall remain with
God?  Because, in this place, He has withheld them, thank Him for that
He loves you more.  Behold, age behind age our sufferings and our
triumph go.  Bring it not all to naught.  Make not the bloodshed to be
useless as water.  For the air is thick with the voices of the dead,
saying: 'Hold, hold by the banner of Israel!  Let it not fall from you!
Proudly we held it though the blood dripped from our fingers!'

Lo, our children, you make us to you as strangers, you harden our
hearts with anger.  But we are ready with our love for you when you
follow upon our ways, which are the ways of the countless dead.  Let
not for little things our heritage be squandered; let not the Maccabæan
banner be smirched, nor false gods enter into our tabernacles which we
build now upon a wandering thousandfold bitterer than the forty years.
We lift out our arms to you.  Join us in singing the Lord's song!  May
the next year see us in Zion!"

There were one or two looked with alarm upon the face of Philip staring
from the wall against the Holy Ark.  His face was bloodless, his eyes
round as if in nightmare.  Not a sound was heard when Reb Monash came
weakly down from the pulpit.  No one knew where to turn his eyes.  As
his father came nearer to resume his seat, Philip gave a sudden
convulsive start, then fell jerkily towards the form where he had sat
before the _drosheh_.  A tiny whispering arose in the congregation, as
of leaves after a windless noon when a first breeze shakes, or of still
waters ruffled.  The _parnass_ uttered a deep _oi! oi!_ absently
clapping his hands three or four times; the weeping of the women
decreased; the men bent towards each other and talked.  Some one
ascended the pulpit to begin the second part of the service.


Reb Monash had chosen well; for that preoccupation which had held his
face all that morning now held his son's for the rest of that day.
After dinner he lay down on the sofa thinking heavily; he neither spoke
a word with his mother nor picked up a book.  He had answered too
easily all the questions life had offered him.  Was it too late to
begin thinking clearly now?  Were his conclusions correct by accident
or were all his conclusions mere self-flattery?  No formula to help him
through the mists of doubt which were swarming round him came his way.
Late that night, when _shool_ and the evening _meyeriv_ service were
over, he walked out towards Baxter's Hill, under the light of stars.
It was not long that he moved onward like a sluggish water.  A wind
came from somewhere afar off and set into motion the mists in his head.
More and more quickly they whirled within him, and then, swiftly, they
were gone.  He rose skywards from his feet.  Without pain or pleasure,
all that issue which had racked him this day became thin, remote.  He
moved on the shores of a sea where the sands were stars, and the sea
was the great womb of the undefined, where all things were not, but God
was.  Trembling, aghast, he stood on the arch of the sweep of sands,
hearing incoherent murmurings.  Towards a blackness cool and clear he
stood where foam and wind beat into his face.  He turned from the
voices of sea and bent down dabbling his fingers among the star-sands.
He rose and walked stepping from rock to rock to the channel where the
Milky Way flowed inward from the sea.  On the bank of the Milky Way, he
stopped once more and lifted in his hands a handful of grass.  Beyond
the slope, the dim waters of Mitchen moved through the night.  He
leaned for some minutes drowsing against a tree trunk, then turned
towards the vague hulk of Baxter's Hill.  "It's over!" he whispered.
"I know!"



CHAPTER X

It was noon on the Day of Atonement which followed nine days after the
_Rosh Hashonah_ memorable to more than one by the oration of Reb
Monash, noon in Cambridge Street, a thoroughfare in Doomington far
removed from the region of the synagogues, which, for this day, were
crowded from dawn to dusk by the day-long worshippers.  The most pious
did not move from within their precincts; the less pious withdrew
occasionally to the immediate environs.  All who were sacrilegious on
all the other three hundred and sixty-four days, on this day rigidly
fasted, and, having no regular pew in a regular synagogue, were
devoutly glad to pay for the privilege of any pew in any synagogue.  If
they gainsaid or were indifferent to the precepts of their faith on
other days, who could forswear the immemorial terror of this day?  If
they had been building all the year a palisade between Heaven and
themselves, on this day, who knew, they might enter Heaven through a
breach in the palisade.  On the night concluding _Yom Kippur_ many
looked forward to the impieties of the morrow as if these had been
annulled in anticipation.  But most felt that if all else were
_démodé_, _Yom Kippur_ stood august beyond fashion.  Even the great
jewellery and general emporia of Doomington shut their doors, though
they exhibited a note to the effect that cleaning operations were in
progress, so that their credit with their more Nonconformist customers
might remain unimpaired.  Bob Cohen, who lived with a _goyah_, a
Gentile lady, all the year round, became entirely oblivious of her
existence for these twenty-four hours, in a synagogue several towns
away from the scene of his amour.  In _shool_ his fervent contrition
was only drowned by the self-reproaches of the penitents whose
perpetual state was the strictest matrimonial chastity.  Avowed
atheists put in an appearance despite all their logic.  There were few
Jews in Doomington that day beyond the circumference of a circle whose
radius was half a mile in any direction from the _Polisher Shool_.

Hence it was surprising to see Alec Segal in a shop doorway far up
Cambridge Street on the afternoon of _Yom Kippur_.  It added to the
surprise to find Harry Sewelson join him after some minutes, for the
four parents of these youths, emancipated to the pitch of transferring
a kettle to and from the fire on _shabbos_, were yet very far from the
transgression of this ultimate sanctity; a sanctity of such awe as
might overwhelm spirits even of the defiant aloofness of Segal and
Harry.

"You're late!" said Segal.

"Three minutes!"

"Six and a half to be precise!"

"You'll be taking notes of how long your neck's in the noose before
you're dead...."

"Yes, and make a graph of the parabola of my descent.  But why are you
late?  Called in at a public-house _en route_?"

"No fear!  I've had a drink at the scullery-tap, it was a little less
ostentatious.  I suppose you've had a drink?"

"Yes, I hid a bottle of lemonade in my mattress!" declared Segal
cunningly.

"I'm not thirsty but I'm jolly peckish.  My elder sister fainted, so I
had to take her home.  As for Esther--you know, my other sister--she's
only fifteen, but she's dead nuts on fasting.  Queer thing, the less
she puts down the more she brings up!  She's been sick all day!"

"But that young scoundrel's not turned up yet!  I wonder if anything's
wrong?"

"He's all right.  His father doesn't stir a foot out of the _Polisher
Shool_; he'll have had an opportunity to prig something to eat and
drink!"

"I don't think he can have backed out?" Segal suggested.

"I don't think it's likely.  He may be walking backward to draw
attention away from his bowler hat.  He doesn't like bowler hats!"

"Or he may be writing a poem in a dark corner, being only young and
somewhat foolish.  He'll grow out of the first as time goes on."

"Yes, he's amusing enough.  But isn't that the illustrious bowler hat?"

"Hello!  Here we are!  I say, bowler hat, have you seen Philip Massel?"

"He's just coming!" said Philip, appearing at last.  "Well, he's come!
I'm starving, where's the shop?"

"You've been at a banquet with Sir Timothy and the City Fathers; else
why so late?" insisted Harry.

"My mother was fearfully faint," replied Philip awkwardly.  "I didn't
like to leave her.  It's a crime for her to fast, she's so weak
nowadays!  It's not been so bad for me, with some packets of biscuits
at home and a copy of Milton for _shool_.  But let's come along!"

The boys walked up Cambridge Street and turned to the right towards a
bridge over the Deadwater Canal.  They passed through the door of an
eating-house and the fat smells of frying enveloped them unpleasantly;
they chose a table in a corner and sat before a lake of spilled gravy
and the tin utensils.

"It feels rather shifty, all this!" ventured Philip after a few moments.

"Look here, lad, don't be conscientious at this time of day!"
remonstrated Segal.

"I mean when you think of the old men and the sick women who're a sight
worse off than we are!"

"Now, Philip," interposed Harry, "You know quite well it's not the
beastly food.  It's a symbol of freedom!  We're not going to be
enslaved any longer under the heel of these daft old superstitions.
_Vive la liberté_ and all that sort of thing!  I positively don't feel
like eating now, as a matter of fact; the stink's rather thick.  You
know, Alec, you might have chosen something more encouraging than this
hole."

"Phew!" from Philip.  "I prefer the smell of the _Polisher Shool_!"

"We can't afford anything better.  I should have preferred the New
Carlton myself, I admit!"

"There'd be too many Jews there!  It would be too public!" Harry
affirmed.

"Well, young fellers," said a dishevelled lady at this stage, "wot are
ye going to 'ave?  Say it slick!"

"Ham and eggs all round!" said Segal lordlily.

"Righto!"  The lady was bustling off.

"Hold on!" Philip shouted after her concernedly.

"What's the matter with you, cock?"

"What else have you got?  I won't have ham!"

"What about fish and fried, saucy?"

"Thank you!" Philip muttered gratefully.

"What do you mean by it?" exclaimed Harry indignantly.  "What do you
want to spoil the show for?"

"You can call me a blooming prig, if you like, and be blowed!  I think
ham's overdoing it, that's all!  It's not playing the game!"

"Don't be a kid!  What's your objection to the miserable animal?  I
thought you'd got over all that!"

"I thought so too, but I think a chap can choose another sort of day
for ham!  What's the good of piling it on like this?"

"Do you mean," asked Harry, "that you've just shoved your head out of
the burrow of superstitions, like a rabbit, and are going to dive down
again, scared?  I thought you were more consistent than that.
Personally I should prefer beef, but I'm sacrificing my inclinations
precisely because ham is a symbol."

"It's not a symbol!  I call it cheek!"

"Cheek my fat aunt!  You're funking it!"

"You can say what you like!  You can stuff your own mouth with the
muck!  I'm not going to choke for your sake!"

"But what of all your wonderful talk about freedom and advancing with
the new race," Segal asked quietly, "and all the good old moonshine?"

"I just think, if you want a symbol, fried fish on _Yom Kippur_ is as
useful as ham.  It's what d'you call it?  it's irreverent somehow,
insisting on ham!  Yes, that's it!  It's irreverent!"

"It's certainly expensive!" declared Segal with an air of finality.
When the food came at last, the three boys hardly touched either ham or
fish.  They had, at least, stood up for the principle of emancipation!
And ham, moreover, is a difficult commodity between unaccustomed jaws.

"It's time I got back!" said Philip, at the point where Cambridge
Street merged into more familiar territory.  "He'll be getting restive
about me!"

"There's a comet in the offing!" declared Segal.  "To-morrow night?"

"To-morrow night, and let your ham rest quiet in your bellies!"


Philip, after entering the _Polisher Shool_, spent a little time with
his mother, not yet being of an age when a masculine presence raised
perturbation in the women's section.  When he advanced towards his own
seat, his father frowned a question upon him.  "_Nu_, and where so
long?"

"I've been feeling sick!" Philip replied truthfully.

"Sit thee down then and open thy _machzer_!  It is at this place one
holds!  Omit thou no word!"

"I hope you are feeling all right, _tatte_?"

"How should I feel?  'Tis well with me!"

Around his head the chanting and the weeping gathered volume.  The
voice of Mr. Herman on the pulpit was choked with crying and his usual
ornamentations were now wholly absent from his delivery.  The hands of
Mr. Linsky thundered contrition.  The face of Reb Yonah was drenched in
tears.  To Philip it seemed that the voices of all these moaning,
swaying men had been lifted for age beyond age.  It was as if he stood
in a dark country where large boulders stood greyly from the uneven
ground; the air was full of lamentations; the sky was compact with
lightless cloud.  If but the dome were rifted, if but through that blue
division there came among these boulders and this lamentation the sharp
shaft of wind--the boulders would subside into sand, there would be no
lamentation; there would be flowers in green hollows, and water in
willowy places; if but the dome were rifted, if but a wind blew....

Philip was tired of vain imaginings.  As long prayer succeeded long
prayer, the tedium of the day gripped him.  He remembered the _Milton_
in his pocket and, with a thrill of dangerous delight, drew it forth
carefully.  Oh, it was important to take the utmost care!  Good Lord,
if he were found out, what on earth would happen?  Could anything
happen proportionate to the crime?  His _machzer_, fortunately, was a
large, protective book!  He leaned the _Milton_ against its yellow
pages and turned stealthily to "Comus."  Was there any poetry like
"Comus" in the world?  What savour it gained from contact with these
present sights and sounds!  How fair was the lady, and how the rhymes
were like bells at morning!

Enraptured he turned page upon page of "Comus."  "Comus" was ended.
Reb Monash was shaking in his corner there, by the Ark, his face pale
with the fast.  All was safe.  He turned to "Allegro" and "Penseroso."
Never had he known poetry to taste so fresh, like cheese and fine bread
among the hills.  He turned to the "Ode on the morning of Christ's
Nativity."

  _See how from far upon the eastern road
  The star-led wizards haste with odours sweet...._

What lines were these, flawless in music, divinely simple!

  _The star-led wizards haste with odours sweet...._

How much loveliness in how little space!  "Star-led," the exquisite
phrase! ... "Star-led" ... Now to the "Hymn! ..."

But a law of gravitation greater than he might understand brought his
eyes from his book, bent backward his head, lifted his eyes into the
eyes of his father staring down from above upon his book.

Then Philip realized blindingly the significance of this moment:

  _... The son of heaven's eternal King,
  Of wedded Maid and Virgin Mother born...._

and once more,

  _... The heaven-born Child
  All meanly wrapt in the rude manger lies...._

Into the inmost centre of the very heart of his father's faith, the
faith of those innumerable dead who for the many centuries had looked
upon this day as the climax of their childhood in Jehovah, upon this
_Yom Kippur_ whose mere utterance was a fear and a great light, into
the synagogue's self, at the very doors of the Holy Ark where lay the
Law pregnant with history, he had introduced ... the "wedded Maid," the
"heaven-born Child" ...!

Down from his father's eyes it seemed that two actual shafts of flame
descended into his own eyes, burning like an acid through the pupils
beyond the sockets, into the grey stuff of his brain.  A sweat stood
upon Philip's forehead, and a chill then seemed to hold it there, like
a circle of ice.  The fire in his father's eyes shrivelled; there came
a hollow shadow of unutterable pain; a sigh fell weakly from his lips.
He staggered towards the door for air.

He returned and said, "My son, throw it away, throw thyself away!  Let
me not see thee again!"

Philip hid the book among the dilapidated Prayer Books at a corner of
the women's section and returned to his _machzer_.  Not once did his
father's eye meet his own during the rest of the day.  When Reb Monash
and his wife were proceeding homewards after the fast and Philip made a
movement as to accompany them, Reb Monash stared with cold eyes and
motioned him to stand away.


The end had come.  Channah sitting with wet eyes on a corner of the
sofa knew it.  Mrs. Massel in the scullery lifting her apron to her
eyes and sobbing ever so quietly knew it.  Philip in the darkness of
the empty _chayder_ with his head between his hands knew it.  Reb
Monash knew it, breaking his fast in the kitchen, saying not a word.

The next morning Reb Monash turned to Mrs. Massel.  Philip was in the
room.  "He must go somewhere!  He cannot sleep here to-night!  He has
broken me, let him not stay to laugh in my face!"

"What can he do?  Where can he go?"

"I know not!  He must go!"  There was no doubting the finality of his
command.

Not a word passed between Philip and his father.  Mrs. Massel dared not
trust herself to utter a sound until Reb Monash had gone upstairs for
his afternoon nap.

"_Nu_, Feivele," she ventured then, "seest thou what has befallen us?
God knows I have not too many years to see thee in ... and now this
black year!  _Schweig den, schweig_, Feivel!  What shall be with us?"

Channah realized that it lay with her to take the initiative.

"Mother," she urged, "all will be well!  You mustn't upset yourself
like this!  The thing we've to talk about now is what we're going to do
with Philip!"

"Yes, what?" Philip asked helplessly.

"We've understood for a long time it was going to end up like this,
there was nothing else for it.  We were talking about it only last
week.  She said..."

"Who said, Channah?  Who do you mean?"

"I mean Dorah!  She said you were wasting the old man to a shadow and
she was going to put a stop to it, for father's sake and everybody
else's!"

"Wasting to a shadow!  What about mother?"

"I know!  But I didn't say anything!  You know what it's like to argue
with Dorah!  But she was going to see father about it, sooner or later,
and now that this has happened ... well, we'd best go and see her at
once!"

"Not one word didst thou say to me!" complained Mrs. Massel.

"It's bad enough now we've got to; what dost thou want more, _mutter_?"

"Oh, but what are you driving at, Channah?  What's the idea?"

"She's going to put up a bed for you in her back-room.  Benjamin keeps
a lot of stock there now, but they can put a little under your bed and
the rest on the landing.  You can pay her so much a week while your
scholarship lasts, and if you don't get another, well, she says you'll
just have to go in for tailoring or something; or Benjamin can take you
on his rounds."

"Oh, hell!" groaned Philip.

There had never been much sympathy between his elder sister Dorah and
himself.  Although the fact was rarely referred to among the Massels,
Reb Monash and his wife were already a widower and a widow respectively
when they were married, Reb Monash bringing Dorah, and Mrs. Massel
Channah, to the union.  Their only children were Rochke, who died so
tragically on the exodus of the family from Russia, and Philip, born
some time later in Doomington.  The common parent between Dorah and
Philip, therefore, was Reb Monash, and the long conflict between the
father and son had rendered less and less substantial the affection
between the brother and sister.  Dorah, a tall, squared-jawed angular
woman, was in some ways more masculine and more forbidding than Reb
Monash, and in all ways more evident to the eye in her Longton
household than her demure husband, Benjamin, whose main concerns in
life were his wife's temper and the state of his samples.  From time to
time she had startled Philip with sudden spurts of generosity, but
these had become increasingly rarer during the last two years.

"There's no way out of it!" asserted Channah.  "And, after all, mother,
it's only twenty minutes' walk away.  Besides, there's the tram up
Blenheim Road!"

The three made their appearance before long at Dorah's.  They found her
already in possession of the main facts, as she had sent Benjamin down
that morning to find out how the family was feeling after the fast and
Benjamin had met Reb Monash proceeding to Longton.  They had both
accepted the hospitality and the lemon-tea of Mr. Levine, the
_parnass_, who had ushered them in from the door of his furniture shop.
Benjamin had rendered his report duly.

With Channah, Dorah was monosyllabic.  Philip she ignored.

"From where he takes this godlessness, _mutter_," she said in Yiddish,
"I understand not!  A _shkandal_ it is, over the whole neighbourhood!"

"He is growing older, he will understand more.  _Folg mir_, Dorah, he
will be a good Jew yet!"

"Would that one saw the least sign!  I have made his bed for him, with
a _perinny_ on top and a _perinny_ below.  He will be comfortable!"

"Oh, mother, don't!" broke in Channah.  "Don't!  It's not far from
Angel Street!  You'll be able to see her every day after school, won't
you, Philip?"

"Yes!" said Philip thickly, "Every day!  He'll be sleeping!"

Dorah turned to Philip for the first time.  "Well, you'd best go home
and get your things ready!  Will you want to bring all those books?"

"I must have my books!"

"He can take away the bookcases I made for them!" declared Mrs. Massel.
"The books will not be in thy way!"

"_Loz shen zein_!  Let it be, then!  Well, he will need a handcart.
Our greengrocer has one.  I'll send him down at eight o'clock!"


A miserable drizzle was falling as Philip gathered the collection of
books he so much prized and placed them on the dirty brown sacking of
the handcart.  Angel Street was more dark and wretched than the Angel
Street of any of his memories.  His mother stood on the doorstep
forlornly, coughing heavily now and again in the rain and wind.  He had
laid the soap-box bookcases she had made for him over his books and the
man was securing the whole load under a final layer of sacking with
coils of coarse rope.

"I'm going now, mamma!"  He kissed her drawn face.

"Go, my little one!"

As the cart splashed over the greasy setts of Angel Street through the
damp darkness, she still stood watching, rain in her hair and soaking
her blouse.  Slightly she lifted her hands towards the receding boy.
He looked back and saw her still standing there.  He came back swiftly
and covered her face with kisses.  But as he again withdrew, again she
stood there emptily.  Whither did her lorn figure bring back his mind?
Whither?  Somewhere long ago, far off!  Then he remembered.  He
remembered his image of her alone in the Russian darkness, when the
dead child had been taken from her arms.  She had stood there emptily
as now ... But the handcart was lurching round into Doomington Road....



BOOK III

APHRODITE


CHAPTER XI

Such then was the spiritual adolescence of Philip Massel, and such, as
lately described, the situation which was its inevitable result--a
result not wholly unforeseen by one or two minor characters in the
drama of his boyhood.  In some senses the intellectual was the more
spectacular element of his development; but the budding of his physical
faculties, the suffusion of all his blood with sex, proceeded
pauselessly through this troubled time.  The strands of growth are, of
course, inextricably intertwined, and this account has followed too
rigidly the threads of Philip's spiritual history.  It must return,
therefore, to a phase which only by a little space followed the
emergence of Socialism above Philip's horizon, and by a little space
preceded that episode with Bertha which demonstrated his curious
simplicity.

We turn then to a budding in Doomington Road.  A group straggle within
and without the rays of a lamp which illuminates a corner formed by
Walton Street and the road itself.  There is much tittering, a little
whispering, and a youth raucously is singing!

  _Press your lips on my lips,
  Your dear little, queer little, shy lips._

It was only ten minutes ago that Policeman Pig-nob (as he is derisively
termed) passed this way, with basest intentions upon Aphrodite.

It is nought to him whether there be a gathering together for the mere
barren breeding of money or for a far holier purpose--the ultimate
propagation of an antique race.  Any gathering together at any street
corner suggests to him disrespect towards the corpulent Doomington
abstraction who is the Chief Constable, and is liable to be
misinterpreted as an incipient movement against the Monarchy and
Balmoral, (which he inaccurately places in the Strand near the lofty
pillar where Cleopatra stands with a blind eye and a cocked hat looking
towards the City Temple; for Policeman Pig-nob is a Free Churchman and
to him the City Temple is almost unsurpassed in sacredness by the Chief
Constable's detached villa itself or His Britannic Majesty's Balmoral).
It is, I have recorded, but ten minutes ago that Policeman Pig-nob
passed this way and dispersed the Aphrodisiac gathering.  The males
folded their tents like the Arabs and as silently stole away.  The
females, having ascertained even so soon the Sanctuary which is their
flesh, stood their ground.  Imagine, therefore, their horror when
Policeman Pig-nob, not merely with policiary rudeness, shone his
bull's-eye into their faces, (decorated in two cases with pink
face-powder and in one with mauve), but, forsooth, pulled the admired
hair of one of their number; and not, finally, Janey's hair or Ethel's
or Lily's somewhat skimpy hair, but, I adjure you, Edie's very hair!
Edie's!  The lovely thick brown hair of the Queen of Walton Street!
Not that Janey, Ethel, Lily and their attendant virgins were not madly
jealous of Edie and her positively cattish success with the boys, but
really ... the rights of the sex.... Policeman Pig-nob ... Edie ...
and, as the most recent immigrant from Russia betrayed herself into
exclaiming ... "_a chalery soll im nemen_!  a cholera should him take!"

As silently, as swiftly as they had faded, the boys re-entered the
fiery joint circle of Love and the Walton Street lamp.  Edie stood
picturesquely sobbing in the shadowed doorway of a shop.  Over her
Harry Sewelson stood proud guard, awaiting the moment when a
silk-handkerchief, requisitioned from the paternal establishment, might
plead for him a devotion which her tears but cemented like glue.  In
this direction too the heart of Philip Massel yearned sickly, albeit
Ethel was murmuring seductively to him "dear little, queer little, shy
lips!"

For the time of the budding of Philip Massel had come; yet even in his
budding Philip was fastidious.  It was no use, he decided.  He could
not bud and burgeon towards Ethel.  This very decision seemed to make
Ethel ache the more intensely towards the stimulation by Philip of her
own florescence.  You could not avoid kissing Ethel amid the
permutations and combinations of Shy Widow and Postman's Knock,
particularly as she tenderly called for you to join her in the lobby's
darkness much more frequently than you called for her.  This was most
particularly the case at her own birthday party, when out of sheer
animal gratitude for the smoked salmon sandwiches you received from her
hands--well, what else could you be expected to do?  But, alas, when
you kissed Ethel, you could not fail to notice how frequently the nose
of Ethel assaulted either your left or your right cheek.

But as for Edie--ah, do not speak of Edie!  For her nose, by some
miraculous diaphaneity or impalpability of love, seemed dimly, if at
all, existent when the felicity of kissing Edie came your way--too rare
felicity, for who but Harry Sewelson hulked before you on that faint,
fair road to Edie?

If the expression may be allowed, at first Philip did not bud
enthusiastically.  Once more his intellectual timidity asserted itself;
particularly when Harry, whose interest in girls had declared itself
somewhat suddenly, very completely and some months ago, had attempted
to convince Philip by cogent intellectual argument that the time had
arrived for the widening of Philip's sphere of interest.  Philip had as
yet been aware of little physical encouragement and less emotional.
And it seemed an act of deliberate malice on the part of Providence, an
act calculated to arrest abruptly for a period of time his "widening"
(until such time as the gathered forces would break sharply through the
crust of distaste), that, first of feminine contacts, brought Ethel's
nose into collision with Philip's cheek.  No act of quixotry towards a
promptly smitten lady could impel Philip to turn the other.  It was
fortunate, therefore, that Edie's lips made their appearance to obscure
this nasal disquietude.  And with Edie's lips, suddenly there came to
Philip a knowledge of something softer than flowers and more fragrant
than any breath in a garden after rain.  Her hair covered her with a
warmth and her hands were at once soft and nimble.  She said little,
for she had little to say, but she disposed her innumerous wares with
such naive artifice that she suggested calm deep wells into which her
bucket rarely dipped.  She was, in fact, a plump and pretty little
girl, alluring, secret, a little conceited.  She realized with pleasure
the vague suggestion of unholiness contained in any relation with the
atheistic Harry, but she observed, flattered, with what immediacy Harry
usurped her for his own when he stormed the citadel of Walton Street
and ousted her other lovers with the flick of a cynical tongue.  With
premature womanishness she was conscious of the piquant contrast the
figure of Harry afforded beside her own: the hard acute angles--the
curves; the eloquent tongue--the tongue more enchanting in its silences
than in its speech; the grey, quick eyes--the indeterminate brown; the
lips whose kisses were incisions of steel--the lips which were like
night, sweet, odorous.

On the recommendation of Harry, an invitation to Janey's birthday party
was sent to Philip.  The problem of a birthday present troubled him
less than on his previous and first visit to such a ceremony, the
occasion upon which he had met and conquered Ethel; for then, even
after he had included a bottle of Parma Violet Scent with a box where
he had glued seven halfpenny coins in a quaint design on the inner side
of the lid, he had been perturbed lest he had not used sufficient
halfpennies for real generosity.  At Janey's birthday party, however,
all such considerations had been drowned in a fortuitous kiss he had
bestowed on Edie.  (It had been a game which had lasted till every
possible combination had been exhausted and each pair of female lips
knew every pair of male).

But it was rare that these successful and unsuccessful adolescent
amours knew the shelter of four walls--birthday parties were as
infrequent as they were splendid.  Hence it was that the corner of
Walton Street each evening saw the gathering of adolescents, in which
behold Philip included, criminally weaned for a time, I grieve to say,
from the Anabasis and even impaired in his adherence to Karl Marx.  And
if Reb Monash inquired "Why so late?" or "Whither going?" and Philip
answered "The Library!" it had been true at least on two occasions upon
which he had made that reply.  The epoch of street-corner flirtation
had set in, and among strange, misty places went the wits of Philip
woolgathering.

Alec Segal looked on aloof, amused.  He had much eloquence,
introspective and extraspective, at his command.  Yet there was none of
the Walton Street ladies concerning whom he wove garlands of words.  If
the development of his adolescence was impressed upon his conscious
mind, and it was unlikely that he had not been mentally tabulating all
his states as they succeeded each other, he had made no verbal comments
to his younger friends.  When Harry was found embroiled in the
passages-at-arms of which Walton Street was the witness, Alec was
interested and looked wise.  When Philip fought weakly and fell in
these same encounters, Alec still remained silent, but a shade of the
sardonic settled more fixedly on his lips.

The whole of this new development was chaotic, obscure, a blind
impulsion towards new things somewhat alien from his other
loyalties--if Edie's lips were not to be taken, as in his equivocal
poetic mind he tended to take them, as the fruit of the tree of poesy.
With a little discomfort he would observe from time to time Alec Segal
standing thin and cryptic at the outskirts of the Walton Street mêlée;
standing there for one moment or two as if he were biding his time, and
then behold, Alec was no more there.

"Alec!" he would demand, "Why do you come tip-toeing in like that?  It
gives a chap the creeps!  If you come, can't you stay a bit, and if you
can't stay, why on earth do you come?  You're like a family ghost
creeping about corridors and grinning from the battlements.  You're a
grisly beast, Alec!"

Alec would rub his left forefinger along the curved line of his nose.

"Nothing, my son!  I'm just waiting!"

"Waiting for what?"

"Oh, I don't know!  Everything's waiting, so am I!  What's the moon
waiting for when she stops short at midnight?  I'm just waiting!  Some
of us are made to keep on moving, like Harry, for instance, and some of
us to wait!  But don't question your grandfather!  It's disrespectful!"


One evening Harry, Alec and Philip were walking down the lonely track
called Chester Street which led beyond the police station, through dark
fields barren of buildings, into Blenheim Road.  They were proceeding
from a party which had been undiluted misery to Philip and had given,
therefore, at least so much food for interested analysis to Alec.  Even
Harry was subdued.  The party had been a thorough failure.  Edie had
lost her forfeit and had been requested to kiss the boy she liked best
in the room.  There was a breathless quiet as with downcast eyes she
halted a moment and then walked demurely towards the face of the
nincompoop, George something-or-other.  He was not even a scholar of a
Doomington higher school.  He was, it was rumoured, attached to the
"job and fent" line.  He had lank black hair greasily retreating in
equal mass from an undeviating central line.  His cheeks were, it was
true, very silky.  His mouth was endurable.  But, indisputably, he was
a boob.  What if his father _was_ a master tailor?  After all, there
are higher social grades than master tailorhood; even if the mere fact
of a scholarship does not put you secure above all considerations of
social status.  And Edie had kissed George.

It was, of course, a deadly snub for Harry; but how much more deadly
for Philip, who immediately before had himself been obliged to kiss the
girl he liked best in the room, and had proceeded with ardent shyness
to his lady's throne and the uninterested lips of Edie.

"There's no idealism in them at all!" reflected Harry bitterly.  "I
don't think they know what love means!  Here's a chap ready to
sacrifice his shirt for them, a chap many girls would jump at!  And
then what happens?  A dolt with sleek hair turns up, and a Cheshire
grin, and they're round his neck and licking his feet!  It isn't only
that they've got no taste--you know.  They've got no self-respect!"

"Be more explicit, Harry!" Alec interposed.  "Don't shirk the
issue--and Edie!"

"They're all the same--absolutely ungrateful and heartless!  I'm going
to be a monk, a Trappist, I think!  Trappism's a profession invented
specially for me!"

"What?  Because a little minx..."

"Don't...."

"Don't be a fool, Harry; you said they were all the same!  I agree.
Why are you specially put out about Edie then?  You didn't object to
the beefy arm of Lily wandering round George's waist, did you?"

"Not a scrap of difference--Lily's beefy arm, Edie's beefy soul...!"

"Look here!" Philip broke in miserably.  "It's no good slanging her.  I
suppose if she likes him better she's entitled to be _his_ girl instead
of somebody else's."

"A little raw, Philip?" Alec asked.

"Of course I'm not!  I don't care what she does!  I didn't notice her
all evening!"

"Oh, you liar!"

"You looked glum enough when she chose that fellow, didn't you?"
taunted Harry.

"Headache, I suppose!  And even if I did look glum, and I don't say I
did--you needn't rub it into a chap.  Besides, in any case, I didn't
look glum!"

"Your logic's masterful as usual, Philip!"

"The point is not Philip's logic but the heartlessness of women!" Harry
insisted.  "What's to be done about it?"

"The only thing to be done about it," declared Alec, "is to look the
fact in the face, that's all!  You must have no illusions about them!
You must stare them straight in the eyes and beyond!  Let 'em know
they're not deceiving you with their little tricks!  Strip off the
illusions, I say!"

"I suppose by 'illusions' you mean," said Philip, "all that's jolly
about 'em and make 'em different from us!  No, it won't work!"

"There isn't anything different about us!  We're all alike!  Strip them
naked and it's just--Body, Sex!"

"What on earth are you driving at now?" Philip asked, frightened.

"Only this--that it's about time you ... Hello!  Look here!  What on
earth ... what on earth's this?"

They had come to the darkest part of Chester Street.  Alec's foot had
stumbled against something large and soft.  The boys stopped.  Harry
lit a match and they saw a bundle before them wrapped in a white sheet.
It was large and bulky and tied at the top in loose knots.

"What is it?" Philip asked.

"Washing, perhaps?" Alec speculated.

"Open it!" Harry demanded peremptorily.  "It might be anything!"

"What shall we do with it?  Perhaps it's something dropped from a
removal cart, eh?" wondered Alec.  "But I hardly think so, it's lying
so steadily on its bottom, as if it had been put there deliberately.  I
think we'd best take it along ... Hello!  Listen!  I say!  It's
_crying_!  Good God, can you hear?"

"Get out of the way, Alec!" Harry exclaimed, "Don't stand theorizing!"
He bent down and untied the knots swiftly.  "Light up!" he commanded,
pushing his matches into Philip's hand.

Harry uttered a startled cry.

"A baby!"

"Ye gods, a baby!"

And in truth, wrapped in a blanket and lying in a soft heap in a
clothes-basket, a minute baby lay, whining feebly and curling its
infinitesimal fingers.

"The kid'll die of cold!  We must get it out of the way at once!"

"Not a day old!" Alec mused.

"Get a move on, for God's sake!  Where shall we take it?"

"The police-station just along!" Philip suggested.

"Yes, the very place!"  Harry took off his greatcoat and placed it over
the top of the basket.  "Here, Alec, take hold of the other handle!"

The baby was delivered into the hands of an inspector, summoned by a
policeman who refused to have anything to do with the case.  The
inspector scrutinized the three lads suspiciously, as if he were ready
to believe that one or the other of them was the father of the child.
They made their statement and at length, reluctantly, he allowed them
to withdraw.

"By Heaven!" muttered Harry, "What a swine the man is!"

"Who do you mean?" asked Alec, who, now that the practical matter had
been discharged and they were once more entering the immaterial world
of thought, reassumed the elderliness of his voice and manner.  "Who do
you mean, vague youth, is a swine?  The inspector!"

"No!  The father!"

"Yes, I'm with you!  But what about the mother?"

"Fancy a mother behaving like that!" Philip wondered.

"That's just what I mean!  The woman behaved perfectly naturally.
Parents only keep their children because other people do.  They're not
really interested in children.  My parents are not interested in me and
I'm not fearfully interested in them.  It's only a sort of crust of
habit, and the parents of this child wouldn't allow it to form.  John
Smith and Mary Brown, let's call them.  I declare that John Smith and
Mary Brown are just natural and sensible people--they had their
fling--Body, Sex!  That's to-night's party and John Smith and Edie and
the baby in the cradle all reduced to their elements!  Body, Sex!  It's
as simple as an equation in Algebra!"  (Alec invariably ended his
ratiocinations with a flick of the fingers--a 'so easy, you know'!)

The incident had filled Harry with nausea.  The disillusionment at the
party, the check to his pride it had involved, the callous abandonment
of the child in the bare croft, had combined to produce in him an
indignation of cynicism.

"You're right!" he declared.  "It's Sex, pure and simple!  It's all
dirt!"

"And you, Philip?"

"What do I know about it?  Go on!"

Philip listened, fascinated and repelled.  At least the philosophy of
Segal offered a coherent explanation of to-night and the other nights.
The whole theme was virgin to him, but the method of attack was so
deadly calm, so impersonal, that he was impelled to follow.  He was
conscious, moreover, that other people, not least Harry and Alec, did
not exclude this branch of life from their horizon; why, then, should
he?  It was all so different from the filth of Angel Street; here, if
soul played no part or little in this interpretation, mind at least was
not absent.  There was, he did not dare to confess to himself, a quaint
furtive pleasure in it all....

"Go on!" he said, breathless to advance, and half-inclined to flee.

Alec Segal talked.  For one hour, two hours, they paced from corner to
dark corner of Chester Street.  There were but few interruptions from
Harry and none from Philip.  Only, as Alec talked, Philip felt
sometimes that he would like to lie down on the cold kerb to
cry--simply, childishly, to cry.  And he felt creeping round him like a
mist, a deadlier loneliness than had ever beset his heart, a loneliness
that now crept and eddied through his being in chill wisps.  Oh for the
brown eyes of his mother, so innocent and so wide with knowledge!  For
the bloom was fading from the world; the freshness was passing away.
Friendship was passing away.  Hitherto he had stood alone,
self-sufficient.  Now the new preoccupations must assail him, wean him
from his old friends.  Wean him, oh sorrowful, oh, surely false, from
his mother!  Lead him towards insubstantial things waiting somewhere to
hold him!  And these things reached towards his friends, were
interposed between them and him.  They had been complete and single
once, these friends, despite all the flaws in their unity.  They were
but provisional and dependent now, as he was himself to be
henceforward.  Pain which had a core of delight, delight which was
gilded dust!

The three youths parted.  As they moved in different ways, night, it
seemed to Philip, engulfed them separately bringing unbridgeable
division.  Night swallowed something of boyhood.  Manhood came stalking
towards Philip out of the vast.  Manhood placed a finger on his young
forehead.  A sad boy slept that night in Angel Street, sad and wise.



CHAPTER XII

Dorah was a tall, raw-boned woman, carrying all the implicit angles of
Reb Monash to an explicit extreme.  In the civil strife at Angel Street
her sympathy had always been on the side of tradition and Reb Monash,
as against licence and Philip.  Channah likewise had, in a weak and
somewhat hopeless way, taken sides.  Not openly, not with unabashed
self-declaration, and far less through philosophy than sentiment, she
had been steadily at Philip's side--when, at least, she was not
absorbed in her collection of Vesta Tilley post cards and her long
waitings at gallery doors for the performances of Lewis Waller or
Martin Harvey.

The veins of Dorah's temper were less easily tapped than Reb Monash's,
but when tapped, they yielded richer ore.  When her temper was at its
most exuberant, her voice was of a dovey stillness which boded much
woe.  But the contradiction in her household which most concerned
Philip was, in a word, weak tea.  So well defined and dark and abrupt
was Dorah, that one would have imagined that tea of her brewing would
be raven as Acheron.  Yet it was, in fact, as weak as a rickety child.
It was tepid.  It was served in a large pint mug, so that its quantity
the more ruthlessly exposed the invariable defects of its quality.
Much and cold milk annihilated its last semblance to the potent brews
of Angel Street and copious sugar rendered it, at length, unpleasant as
an inverse castor oil.

Compare with weak tea, tea almost leonine; also cherries in the skim of
milk, and Mrs. Massel sitting hard by, humming happily like a kettle,
or moving about the kitchen with happy bird-like noises, and producing
finally a remnant of Saturday's _kuggel_ (which is a thick brown soft
pudding with many raisins and a celestial crisp crust)! ... Until the
shuffling of Reb Monash's feet overhead might be heard, and there is
the last gulping of tea and swallowing of _kuggel_, and the lifting of
a laden satchel of books, and from Philip's lips a fatuous "So long,
old mother, toodle-oo!" which is a valediction juvenile indeed from the
lips of a young man to whom at last the secrets of the universe have
been laid bare, from the genesis of the baby to the real nature of God
and the perfidy of Edie....

"So long, old mother!"


Since the exodus from Angel Street, relations between Philip and his
father had not been clearly defined.  Philip still descended from
Longton each Saturday morning to accompany Reb Monash to the _Polisher
Shool_.  He had at first been extremely reluctant to go, but Dorah
threatened unstated oppressions, and though tea could hardly have been
more pallid, Philip felt it wise to fall in with her request.  He still
came down to join in festival meals, but no word of intimacy passed
between them.  In _shool_, the watchful eye of Reb Monash no longer
guarded Philip's Prayer Book lest two pages be turned over in place of
one; which very remission compelled Philip to reiterate the cryptic
prayers with a blank, dull fidelity.

Thus, therefore, though they were on conversational terms with each
other, as a man might be with a youth he disliked or feared but in whom
he was compelled to take an interest, out of loyalty towards a dead
friend, invariably the awakening of Reb Monash brought about the
dissolution of such a cherry-séance as I have spoken of.  For Mrs.
Massel and her son had now made a tacit pact by which Philip always
came home from Doomington School via Angel Street instead of by the
upper road to Longton called Brownel Gap.  It meant an uninterrupted
hour with his mother, and these months, howsoever disastrous and dark
the day might be before and after this golden hour, were their halcyon
days.

"And yet," apprehensively muttered Philip to himself, "how thin she is
getting!"

"Mother!" he would say, "Aren't you well?  Can't you take something?
You don't look half so--you know--half so fat and jolly as ordinary
mothers do.  Look at Alec Segal's mother!  She adds another chin every
month and she keeps on getting further out in front!  You don't!
What'll we do about it, mother; it can't go on, you know!"

"Channah, God bless her!" she would reply, "out of her hard-earned
wages--and you know how much he makes her bring into the house--and
then her new dress she's bought for Betsy's wedding, it's all purple
like wine, a _par-shane_, that's what the dear girl looks, a beauty
straight out of the picture book!  Vesta Tilley me thou no Vesta
Tilleys!  Going on the stage like a boy, smoking cigarettes!  But she
always wears wigs!  Perhaps she wants to make herself out a daughter of
Israel, with her wearing wigs!  Well, if she ever dresses up like an
honest woman, I say Channah's new back comb, even if it hasn't got real
diamonds, is just as lovely as Vesta Tilley's!  Don't forget the sugar
in thy tea, Feivele!"

"Yes, right, mother!  But what about Channah, her hard-earned wages?"

"Oh yes!  My head, my head!  Thou dost not get thy brains from my old
silly head, Feivele!  _Nu_, where were we!  _Yah_!  I was saying, out
of her hard-earned wages, cod-liver oil she buys me, and sometimes two
fresh eggs she buys me!  The extravagant girl, two fresh eggs!  Make me
a poetry out of two fresh eggs!  It's all right making poetry out of
trees and rivers!  Thou hast ever seen trees and rivers, yes?  No!  Ah,
those were _takke_ trees by the Dneister, and that was a river in a
thousand!  Will I ever smell again the grass in the fields by the
river, when they cut it and it lies in heaps, and the moon, it comes up
like a feather!  This is not for me, Feivele!  But when I'm dead,
Feivele...."

"No, no, no, mother!  Look here, I don't think you ought to talk like
that!  It isn't sensible!"

"I mean over a hundred years--thou shalt see a lot of countries and
hills and thou shalt smell the grass cut by the river, maybe thou shalt
see even the Dneister!  Perhaps my brother Benya's daughter--she is how
many years old, eight, nine--perhaps she will be a _studentka_ and thou
wilt teach her English and she will teach thee _Russ_ and you'll get
married--and thy old mamma, she'll not be there to see!"

"Mother, it's not decent of you!  You talk like that more and more, I
don't know why, and if you'd only take more care of yourself, you could
be the Fat Woman in a show!"

"I'm sorry, son, I'm sorry," covering up her traces wistfully, "I mean
I'll be over the sea in Angel Street, and you'll not want to wait till
you come to England, thou and Rivkah--yes, yes, Rivkah is her name, God
bless her! before you get married!"

Some days later, after another sitting where conversation ranges over
continents and stars, and there is no fatigue in their wings--"Say,
mother! here's two more new-laid eggs!  I think one's a duck's, does it
matter?"

"Oh a _katchky_!  A big blue _katchky's_ egg!  Oh, Feivele, where didst
thou--

"Now don't ask!  And anyhow, I've been sick of Longfellow for ages!"

"See, I'll boil it now!  There's time before he comes down!  Thou wilt
have half!"

Stoutly, "Nothing, nothing!  It's yours!"  The egg is boiled.
Sacredly, as if duck-egg-eating were a holy rite, Mrs. Massel eats her
duck's egg.  Once or twice she throws in fervent appreciations of the
race of _katchkies_.  Philip half hopes her cheeks will here and now
take on a shade more colour from the nourishment he has provided for
her out of the disposal of Evangeline.  Her face still is pale, and
there are still drawn lines at the mouth.  Ah well, only wait till
she's taken a lot more cod-liver oil and a lot more new-laid eggs,
including as many _katchkies_ as discarded poets will provide....!

"Feivele, he comes!"

"Humph--ho!  I'm going!  Oh, look at your hands, how liny and seamy
they are!  Come, _do_ leave those brasses alone, they're so much work!
And you know, when you don't clean 'em the only difference is they look
like copper instead of brass!  Ototototoi!  I must be off, I suppose!
What fat cherries they were--like babies!  Well, you huge bullying
monster of a mother, till to-morrow, till to-morrow!"

So the months passed, with their half-surreptitious visits to Mrs.
Massel, which gained something of their too short delight from their
shallow secrecy.  At the extremes of the day, there were, on the one
hand, school, on the other hand, Walton Street.  At school he generally
maintained an unambitious head above the waters, still fitfully
persecuted by his fellows, or ignored, or dimly tolerated as one who
took no interest in societies, sports and camps, but from whom no
positive evil was to be expected, saving sometimes an ugly spurt of
temper which did not cringe even before the towering creatures who at
all other times carried universal terror in their wake.  At the other
extreme of the day were the sporadic flirtations in Walton Street which
began somewhat to lose their attractions as he moved towards his
sixteenth year.  There were subfusc rumours about the migration of Alec
Segal's family to another town for reasons unspecified.  Harry Sewelson
became entangled with two barmaids and a German governess successively.
The simpering graces of the Edie ménage, it is grievous to add, began
to wear thinner and thinner, excepting for the grosser souls of a
George or a Willy Levi the Barber.  Moreover, Philip had received so
feeble a move as a consequence of an Edie-deteriorated school year,
that he determined violently to regain his academic self-esteem.  Of
the fact that he became a competitor for the five-pound prize to be
awarded to the greatest authority on Chaucer in the middle school at
Doomington, Philip had left Dorah unaware.  She was ready to expend
over him the vials of her maternal love (she had no children) only as
soon as he consented to be what she termed "a Jew among Jews."  The
history of Angel Street had taught her the futility of positive
compulsion in this direction.  But she placed before her the definite
policy of treating Philip in a manner neither hostile nor affectionate,
until, maybe, the sheer force of frigidity brought him creeping to the
warmth.  Whilst Philip had spent all the evening in the pursuit of
Edie's lips instead of in the pursuit of a high place in form, she had
merely said nothing.  When now till a late hour he began to concern
himself with his school work and his tales of Chaucer, she said nothing
still, and was told as little.  But likewise Philip said nothing to his
mother.  Suppose, and after all many of his competitors were in senior
forms, suppose he should fail badly!  Only Channah was his confidante,
and from her he obtained the gift of a certain most desirable complete
Chaucer which Cartwright had displayed in his curiosity shop for
fruitless months.

Philip still remembered the almost dizzy delight he had occasioned his
mother by the winning of a mere form prize as second-in-class two years
ago.  She still treasured it alongside of her Yiddish translations of
Holy Writ, in the most intimate recess of her cupboard.  Not a word was
intelligible to her, of course; she was capable even of holding the
book upside down.  Yet she would carefully wipe her spectacles and
proceed to move her eyes in leisurely transports from page to
hieroglyphic page.  She was so much attached to the book that he had
not had the heart to take it away with him on the melancholy handcart
which had transported his goods to Longton.

The decision of the Chaucer prize was to be decided an hour after
school on a certain day and the official announcement to be made at
prayers the following day.  In an agony of sick apprehension Philip
slunk about the corridors of the school.  He was in a state of comatose
despair and was staring unseeingly into a case of stuffed beavers and
stoats, when a hearty and heavy hand descended on his shoulder.

"Well, Philip!" exclaimed the robust voice of Mr. Furness, "and who do
you think has won the Chaucer prize?"

"Albert Chapman, sir!" suggested Philip weakly.

"Try again!"

"Jack Lord, sir!"

"No, my lad!  He lives nearer Angel Street than that!  Oh, of course,
you live in Longton now!  How's your sister?"

"You ... you don't mean _me_, sir?"

"But I do!  Come into my room, I've a poet I think you'll like.
Henley!  You've not met Henley?

  _It matters not how strait the gate,
  How charged with punishment the scroll!_


Won't your mother be glad, eh?  I'm pleased, Philip, very!  You're
making good again!  Let me see, we were quoting Henley.  Of course, you
remember:

  _In the fell clutch of circumstance
  I have not winced nor cried aloud._

No?  Here's the book then! ..."


Philip ran to Angel Street breathlessly and burst into the kitchen.
Reb Monash had already come down and was sipping his glass of
lemon-tea.  But Philip had no eyes for Reb Monash.

"Mother!" he shouted, "I've won!  I've won the Chaucer!  A five-pound
prize!  Isn't it grand!  I'll be able to buy you a blouse for _yom
tov_!  And hordes of eggs!  Isn't it grand!"

She looked towards Reb Monash.  He had contracted his forehead.

"Hush!" she said in a thin, even voice.  "Thy father has a head this
afternoon.  Make not so much noise!"

"Don't you understand?  I've won an awfully big prize and I've worked
so hard for it!" he said, crestfallen.  He had expected she would flush
with delight and seize his hands and lift them to her lips, as she did
when she was tremendously pleased with him.  Instead, here she was
showing no sign of pleasure, hardly of interest.

"It is well!" she said.  "But thou must be quiet!  Thou wilt have a cup
of tea, wilt thou?"

"No!" he muttered, suppressing in his throat a lump of acute
disappointment.  "I've got to go to Dorah's at once!  I promised to do
something for her!"

His eyes had a suspicion of dampness when he arrived at Longton.  He
ate a chilled dinner sullenly.

Next day he had not the heart to go and see his mother.  He spent the
hour in an alcove of the school library ostensibly reading De Quincey,
actually playing a game at that time gathering momentum at Doomington
School, the game called "push penny," where two pair of nibs stuck in a
table served as goal posts, and two rival pocket knives impelling two
rival pennies attempted to introduce a further coin into the respective
pen-nib goals.  But he turned up in Angel Street as usual the following
day.  He was sulky.  "A nice mother you are..." he began.  But he had
not time to say more.  She had seated him beside her on the sofa and
was stroking his head.  "Feivele, Feivele, didst thou not understand?
When he is here, dare I show what I think, how glad I am...?"  A fit of
coughing interrupted her.  The boy looked up anxiously.  "Thou
knowest," she began again, "thou knowest what he will think, that I
encourage thee in they _goyishkeit_.  Ah, would that thou _wert_ a
holier Jew, my son!  It does not matter how far thou wilt go in the
world, once a Jew, remain a Jew!  Thou wilt have high friends.  They
will say to thy face 'How thou art wonderful, Mr. Massel!'  Is not that
true?  And behind thee they will murmur 'Jew!  Jew!'  _Yah, yah_, that
is a long way ahead!  Where I shall be, who knows?  And now again, what
hast thou won?  What?  No!  Not five pounds!  For just sitting down and
writing for three hours?  No, that cannot be!  Mr. Furness likes thee,
no?  It is Mr. Furness, he knows thou art cleverer than all the other
boys...."

"No it wasn't, mother!  He hadn't anything to do with it!"

"Tell me not!  No sane man will give away five pounds because one sits
oneself down at a desk and writes words!  Ah well, let it be, if thou
wilt have it so! ... But thou must not work so hard, thine eyes ... Oh,
this coughing!  I went to the market to buy a hen for _shabbos_.  It is
cheaper there.  And it was raining one of your English rains ... lakes,
it rained!"

"You know, mother, it's rotten of you!  You shouldn't do it!"

"It will pass, it will pass!  But the kettle's boiling!  Tea!  And look
what I have bought thee, to-day!  Cakes with ice, eh?  I know how thou
art a sweet tooth!  Dost thou remember swallowing a whole box of pills
because thou thought they were sweets!  And how I took thee in this
shawl, the red one, to the chemist!  And he made thee sick with his
finger, and thou bit his hand, thou _yungatsch_!  See!  It boils over
on my clean fender!  _Kum shen, kum_!"

The summer examinations followed.  For some weeks preceding them,
Philip worked hard all day and long into the night.  It was during this
period that Mrs. Massel took to her bed.  Her cough had become heavy
and persistent.  Philip would come in after school with frightened eyes.

"It will pass, it will pass!" she repeated.  He tried to overwhelm in a
frenzied absorption in his work the lurking fear which gnawed at his
heart-strings.  Soon it was found imperative to move her bed from the
upstairs bedroom to the parlour below.  The pale thinning face would
intervene between him and the page.  He would draw back in a sudden
access of terror.  "It will be all right!" he assured himself, "All the
really hot days of summer are to come yet!"  One thing at least he
could do.  He would get a first-rate place in the exams.  He knew how
that would delight her.  He was sure it would help her no end.  He
thrust himself wholly into his books.

He did so well at the examination that a bursary was awarded him which
put his position at school beyond all peril for another two years.

"Mother!" he burst in one day.  "Such good news!"

She lifted her head tiredly.  "Tell me, my son!"

"I've got a huge scholarship and school's absolutely right now, nothing
to fear!  Tell me, mother, aren't you horribly excited!  Isn't it fine!"

But looking down on her face, he found it wet with tears.  An ice-sharp
dismay leapt to his heart.

"Mother, aren't you glad?  You ought to be laughing!  I never expected
anything like it!  Oh, mother, why on earth are you crying?  What's it
all about?"

"Thou wilt not understand, Philip!  But it is nothing!  I'm not really
crying!  Nothing, nothing!  See, my face is dry!  Kiss me, Feivele!"

He bent down to her.  For an hour he talked to her of the new
confidence his success had brought him and what he was going to do when
he left school.  He might even go to the University!  No, he would not
be a doctor!  His ambitions hadn't taken shape yet, but he might be....
Oh, he didn't know what he mightn't be if he only tried!  And he'd have
such a house for her to live in...!

He fell to describing the house of his dreams ... until at length
Channah came in.  She was ending her button-hole labours earlier,
nowadays, in order to have more time to attend to her mother.

The summer holidays had already begun when Mr. Furness wrote to Philip
informing him that he had made arrangements for the boy to spend a
fortnight in the country.  It was characteristic of Mr. Furness.  He
realized that unless he himself engineered it there was no chance of
Philip obtaining the holiday the boy seemed badly to need.  It was
better, he decided, not to broach the matter at all, but by definitely
presenting Philip with the _fait accompli_, and by placing himself
behind the vantage of the impersonal post, to simplify Philip's
position as far as possible.  The idea had occurred to him of inviting
Philip to the annual Doomington camp among the Westmoreland hills,
particularly as the camp regularly contained a fair proportion of the
Jewish boys at the school.  But the thought of Reb Monash seemed
rigidly to disqualify the idea.  It was obvious that with the most
courteous intentions in the world the ceremonial minutiae of Angel
Street could hardly be repeated to their last austerity in the divine
welter of camp.  He cast about in his mind, therefore, for a means of
satisfying at once the scruples of Reb Monash and his own determination
that Philip should breathe smokeless air.  The Jewish "guest house"
kept by Mrs. Kraft under the Wenton Hills seemed as amiable a solution
as he could find.

It was run on "strictly _kosher_" lines for boys between the ages of
thirteen and sixteen, and ladies over the decorous age of thirty.  The
determination to avoid complications _du coeur_ seemed, he considered,
perhaps a little ostentatious.  The important point, however, was that
Wenton House was at once "_kosher_" and in the country, and he was
satisfied that Mrs. Kraft was a capable and excellent lady.

For one moment only Mr. Furness's letter brought to Philip a wild joy,
then the joy flickered and was quenched.

"Absolutely impossible!" he determined.  "How can I go and leave her
lying ill in the parlour, coughing!  I'm not going, that's final!"

But the matter was by no means so easily decided.  "Not going!" cried
Mrs. Massel.  "Not going!" echoed Channah.

"Be thou not a fool, my son!" the mother urged.  "How I have yearned it
should come to pass for thee!  What, a Yiddisher house in the country!
Of course thou wilt go!  Thou wilt come back a _labe_, a lion, with a
big chest, a sight for God and Man!  Perhaps there will be a real river
there?  No?  Not like the Mitchen!  A river they call it, such a year
upon them!  Yes, and the men in the fields will be cutting the grass,
or is it too soon?  The year is slower in this England of thine than in
Terkass, but what knows one of the year, how it comes or goes, in thy
lovely Dum--ing--tonn!"

"Don't be silly, mother!  How on earth can I go when you're like this!
I can't!  I can't think of it!"

"A question!  Thou must go, I say!  Annotate for me no passages!
_Mirtsaschem_, I'll be well again when thou returnest.  I will make
thee, all for thyself, a _kuggel_ ... _oi, oi_, this coughing ...
_mishkosheh_, it will pass ... a large _kuggel_, with large raisins,
larger raisins are not!"

"Of course you must go!" broke in Channah, adding her pressure, "Look
how hard you've been working with all your Chaucers and things!  We'll
be having you to look after as well, if you're not careful!  And you
know yourself how it'll cheer mother up to think you're in the open air
with no worries and nothing to do but get fat!  I'll tell you what,
I'll give you an extra half-crown--if you promise not to spend it on
your smelly old books--and you must go to a farm every morning----"

But as she went on talking, a shadow, the sensation of a picture rather
than a picture itself, established itself in Philip's mind.  A figure
shrouded, very calm, very cold!  Candles fluttering somewhere!  Hunched
shadows ... calm ... cold....!

"I can't go!  I can't go!" he shouted suddenly.

"Feivele!" his mother begged.  "What is with you?  Speak to him,
Channah, speak to him!"

"You're a beast, Philip!  Look how you're upsetting her!  You _must_
go!  _Emmes adonoi_, the doctor said she's getting on nicely.  It's
only rest she wants and good food, he said, and no worry.  No worry,
mind you!"

He looked away from Channah and saw the appeal in his mother's eyes.

"All right, I'll go!" he said heavily.

"Good old lad!  The first thing..."

"Look here, Channah!" he interrupted.  An idea had suddenly occurred to
him.  "I'll go on one condition.  You must write a note to me every day
I'm away, it doesn't matter how small, a post-card if you like!  And
every day mother must write her name on it, without fail!  Promise
that!"

Channah looked at him strangely.

"Of course I'll promise!  And I'll do it!  Won't we, mother?"

"The foolish boy with his poetry-ideas!  Of course we will!  _Nu, shen,
nu_, thou art happy now?  He will say to me a poetry, Channah, and thou
must go this moment to boil thyself an egg!  Go thou, go, _tochterel_!"

"That's all right!" murmured Philip.  Before him waved green banners of
grass towards the foothills, and white clouds sailed aloof over broken
peaks....  "That's all right, mother!  And if you forget that _kuggel_
..."



CHAPTER XIII

For the first day at Wenton Philip was almost drunk with the abrupt
change from Doomington to the fresh air and the hills.  The atmosphere
in Wenton House, to be sure, was a little chilly.  The relentless
cleanliness of each conceivable detail was disturbing.  The flaky
boiled potatoes served up for midday dinner, Philip's first meal in the
House, compared a little disagreeably with the potatoes baked in
abundant fat as prepared by Mrs. Massel and only less ably by Dorah.
There occurred also a slight contretemps with the implements for
pudding.  It seemed that most of the boys who sat at Philip's table had
paid earlier visits to Wenton House: for Mrs. Kraft, as she stood at
the door to receive her junior guests, was able, though the scheduled
fortnight was only just beginning, to inquire from one youth, "Well,
Abey, and did you get that job in the shipping office?" and from
another, "Tell me, Hyman, is the other sister married yet?" and to warn
a third, "I hope you will not throw stones, Jackie, at the Christian
boys in the village!  _I_ get blamed for it, and it won't do, it won't
do!"  To Philip she said, a smile emerging from the grimace of matronal
hospitality, "What did you say your name was?  Philip Massel?  And how
old?  Oh, of course, Mr. Furness told me, getting on for sixteen!
Well, we're glad to see you, Philip!  See you have a good time!"

Far chillier than Mrs. Kraft were the boiled potatoes, and chillier the
pictures on the walls.  Wenton House was not wholly self-supporting;
only the charity of several benevolent individuals in Doomington
rendered a country fortnight possible to the boys on the easy terms of
their acceptance.  Hence perhaps the legends below the pictures, "How
ready is the arm of Charity!" "Charity, the Handmaiden of God!"

Yet, despite the slight constriction in the atmosphere engendered by
these details, the sight of Winckley Pike beyond the wide window of the
dining-room, and the quick cry of swallows and the smell of clover
atoned for the hygienic potatoes, and made of the pictured legends mere
ingenuous statements of fact.  The country was not so overwhelming a
revolution in the mind of Philip as might have been expected.  Poetry
had long ago made real enough the unseen hills and the unsmelled
blossoms.  Bluebell Bank had given concreteness as well as subjective
reality to his dreams, and such excursions into the country for a whole
day as he had experienced several times, with Dorah once, with Harry
and Alec once, and twice with a master at school, had continued the
process of revelation.  They had once climbed Bracken Hill to see far
off the triangular mass of Winckley Pike, and beyond, the more desolate
moors and the jagged hills.

It was at tea-time that he first thoroughly became aware of the dark
eyes of a lady, a young lady, a lady who was chiefly dark eyes.  He had
had a dim feeling during dinner that some inexplicable thing was
causing a disturbance in his blood.  He had given it no name.  It may
have been nervousness merely due to the new surroundings.  But at
tea-time he ascertained quite clearly that among the ladies of
appallingly mature age seated round the table between his own table and
the windows, a young lady not fearfully much older than himself, was
lifting lettuce to her virginal lips.  She was sixteen, perhaps
seventeen, certainly not eighteen!  They were nice lips for eating
lettuce with, but they were nothing to compare with her eyes.  Dark
eyes, a bit languishing and long, with long lashes.  He wondered what
she was doing there amid her staider companions.  He wondered what the
colour of her dark eyes really was.  Would you call it brown, or a sort
of deep shade of grey?  He became aware of her awareness of him.  She
was conscious of his scrutiny and the dark eyes stared scorn.  A chit
of a boy like him!  He realized he had held his cup of tea for long
seconds arrested on its journey to his lips.  He blushed and drained
the chilled cup to its last drop.  The lady was chattering vivaciously,
her eyes quick and lovely, her lettuce-receiving lips making rich, full
curves as she spoke.

"Make a good tea, you boys!" came the vigilant injunction of Mrs. Kraft.

"Yes, Mrs. Kraft!" was the fervent and almost unanimous reply.

"Yes, Mrs. Kraft!" hurried Philip, startled, belated.  He observed
quite distinctly the lips of the dark-eyed lady shape in mockery "Yes,
Mrs. Kraft!"  His veins burned resentment against the insolent mystery.
The sun shouldered from behind a cloud and thrust his fingers into her
thick hair.  It sparkled and was alive with lights like a tray of gems
in a jeweller's window.  The flash and wealth of the girl's hair turned
him swiftly veering towards Doomington, the thinning hair of his mother.

"Poor old mother!" he mused, deliberately switching his mind away from
the lady of long lashes.  "I wonder if the cough's eased down a bit?  I
wonder how many days it'll be before she's up and about again....  What
a funny little nose she's got, a weird little cleft at the tip!  What
can she be doing in that lot? ... O blow the girl, what's she got to do
with it anyhow?  Why on earth shouldn't mother get away here, as soon
as she's properly all right?  Everything's _kosher_ and all that sort
of thing.  He'll have to find the money somewhere, that's all!  They
could sell all those _bechers_ and the plush table-cloth.  And we never
use the samovar nowadays!  Oh what a rotten cough it was, like
something tearing!  Poor old..."

"You won't leave that piece of bread and butter on the plate
unfinished, Philip Massel, please!" broke in the voice of Mrs. Kraft.

"I'm so sorry!" he said, a quiver in his voice, the cough still
jangling and echoing in his brain, "I didn't notice it!"

He again caught the eyes of the dark lady.  It seemed that mysteriously
she had caught the infection of his sadness.  Her eyes were rounder
than they had been, though not less dark.  Her speech was more subdued.

Or perhaps it was an illusion.  Perhaps?  Of course it was an illusion!
A laughter fell from her throat like a shower of pebbles.  Surely she
couldn't have meant that almost imperceptible wink for him?  An elder
person was muttering uncomfortably, "Not so much jam, Mamie!"

Mamie!

An ever so much nicer name, when you came to think of it, than "Edie."
"Edie" began with a screech and its one consonant was a miserable
dental.  Strange how totally Edie and her nymphs had slipped from his
thoughts of late months!  He remembered the thoroughly nasty row at
school after the Walton Street period had brought him so abysmally low
down in form.  They had been giddy months....  He had learned a lot....
Then the Chaucer came, then the school exams.  Then she fell ill and
got worse as the weeks went on....  There had been no room for Edie.
She was a sly, deceiving creature, not really to be trusted, though
beautiful in a sort of way of course.  Now Mamie ... extraordinary
name, Mamie....

The boys had begun to file out of the room, and Philip turned his eyes
once more towards Mamie, absurdly daring to hope she was looking in his
direction, or, if not actually looking towards him, at least showing
the black jewels of her eyes.  But her head was turned away; he could
make out the leaf of lettuce that was delicately approaching the hidden
mouth.

Duly the next day a letter came from Channah.  Mother was getting on as
well as might be expected, and be sure and get that glass of milk every
day, and if ever you walk into streams, go back at once and change into
your other boots.  Below the girl's writing the wavering Yiddish
letters of his mother's signature scrawled sacredly.  With a
sentimentalism he did not repress, despite a consciousness of Alec's
probable attitude towards such behaviour, he placed the letter under
his shirt until its successor of next day should displace it.  He was
walking alone, along a quiet lane behind the ambling shanks of cows.
He had made efforts to develop friendly relations with some of the
other boys at Wenton House.  But most of them seemed to have got
acquainted with each other in Doomington or on previous holidays and
were already splitting up into exclusive groups of twos and threes.  He
could not help but feel that they looked upon him with some distrust.
Many of them had already left their schools and were installed in
warehouses and factories.  Philip was obviously one of those stuck-up
people who pronounced their "u's" almost as if they were "a's," which
was absurd, and some of them their "a's" as if they were "ar's," which
was intolerable.  There was something too, he observed, of subtle
contempt in their attitude.  They had all paid a certain sum of
shillings for their respective fortnights, but the rumour had gone
abroad that an unknown capitalist was financing Philip's holiday.  No,
they decided, he was not their class; a little above, a little below,
but not of them!  So that, not entirely to his displeasure, he was left
rather pointedly alone.  Upon the second afternoon, then, he was
sauntering slowly along at a little distance behind a herd of cows,
when he saw far up the lane a female figure clothed in light blue turn
round a bend with some speed, advance a little, and then apparently
catching sight of the approaching cows, stop suddenly and flatten
against a laneside tree.  Then pursuing her round the bend lurched a
red cow, followed by another and a third.  The blue-clad figure sped
onward again until the foremost of the advancing cows was not far from
her, then she sank once more into the dry ditch.  Philip had recognised
the black hair.  He had almost made out the brightness of the eyes.  It
was Mamie, the enchantress of the tea-table!

"Frightened of cows!" he thought a little contemptuously.  "All right,
I'll lend the poor girl a hand!"  He came quickly forward and placed
himself between the girl and the roadway.

"Excuse me, won't you!" he said, "I personally am not afraid of
cows...."

The bent head was lifted with quick anger, the black hair tossing.

"Who said I was?" asked the girl.

"Oh, I beg your pardon!" said Philip crestfallen.  "I didn't understand
why----" and he proceeded to move away, a flush of flame lining his
ears.

"Don't go away!" the girl shrieked.  "I am frightened!  Horribly!"

He came back.  "Right-ho!" he said, and folded his arms.  The cows were
filing past in the two directions.  Mamie looked round from the side of
Philip's legs.  "They're nearly all gone!" he assured her.

"I hate cows!" she vowed.

He ventured a remark not strictly _à propos_.  "And I hate moths!  Of
course, not to mention beetles!"

"I don't like beetles--or moths!" she added speculatively.  "But
principally mice and cows.  But then what would you expect from a
sensintive girl like me?"

His mind went floundering after the meaning of "sensintive."  Oh, of
course, she meant what people usually called "sensitive."  What a
quaint old-world sort of word it was on Mamie's lips!  "Exactly!
Exactly!" he agreed politely.

"If I may say so, it isn't exactly _delincate_ to know which are bulls
and which are cows.  Only vulgar girls know _that_ sort of thing!"
What a fascinating little trick she had of putting "n's" into
unexpected places.  _Delincate_!  It gave the very word a delicacy of
its own.

"Oh, yes!" he said with conviction.

"I'd best be getting up!" she remarked after a slight silence.  "It was
very _sweet_ of you to give me your protection.  Thank you!" her lips
shaped lusciously.  "Thank you!  So sweet of you!  Quite chivalrous!"
she completed, with a delightfully displaced accent.

"Not at all, not at all!" murmured Philip.  Really girls did make an
awful fool of him!  It was about time he said something a little more
elaborate than "Exactly!" or "Not at all!"  He had said more before a
crowd of working men in ten seconds than he seemed capable of in ten
hours in the presence of this quite extraordinary young lady.

"You might," came her voice, a little waspishly, "help a lady to her
feet when she gives you an invintation!  That you might!"  She was
rising from the ditch.  He bent over towards her, stung and foolish,
and lifted her to her feet.  The pout left her lips at once.  "Oh,
thank you so much!" she trilled.  "Quite grown-up you are, somehow!
How long are you staying in this dirty hole!"

"As long as you are!" he said recklessly, in a spurt of shy gallantry.

"Go hon, now!" she mocked, and flicked the tip of his nose with
outstretched fingers.  "That you aren't!  I'll have to run away from
you if you talk like that!"  She broke into song--"Saucy and so young!"
she quavered.  Her voice sent little waves of pleasure coursing up and
down his spine.  "I'm older than you are, I'll bet!" he ventured
maturely.

"How old, Percival?" she asked, signifying her pleasure with a smile of
arch gratitude.

"About seventeen!" he lied.

"Well, I'm only just a bit older, nearly eighteen!" she said glibly.
Her hand patted and smoothed her hair.  "Nearly eighteen!" she
repeated, as if the sound of the words gave her real pleasure.

"So we're sort of practically the same age!" suggested Philip.

"_Are_ we now?  Well, you are taller than me and only a month or so
younger, so we'll call it _quits_, as we say on the stage!"

"On the _stage_?" Philip asked breathlessly.

"On the concert-platform, I _do_ mean!  Not low-down music-halls and
musical comedies!  I'm a singer!"

"By Jove!" Philip whispered, "I didn't know you were one of those!"

"One of those what?" she asked sharply.

"Singers!" he replied innocently.  "Why, what?"

"Oh, it's all right, what's-your-name!" she said.  "Oh, by the way,
what _is_ your name?"

"Philip, my name is!  Philip Massel!"

"Quite nice!" she approved.  "Mine's Ursula!"

"But I heard a lady say 'Mamie!'"

She frowned.  "Oh, that's only my Jewish name--Mamie Jacobovitch.  Of
course you'll have heard my professional name, 'Ursula Daventry.'  But
I don't mind being called Mamie on holidays!  But how long," she asked,
changing the subject, "did you say you were staying?  A fortnight, I
suppose?  I'm staying three weeks!"

"I thought girls weren't supposed to stay at Mrs. Kraft's, are they?"

"Oh, it's my precious mother's doing!  She's gone off to Chester to
help Auntie Bessie have a baby, although what good _she'll_ do ... but
I oughtn't to talk to you like this, you're only a kid after all!"

"You just said, you know, we're really the same age to all intents and
purposes, didn't you?"

"Of course I did!  Of course we are!  Where was I!  Oh, yes!  Well, and
mother's a cousin of Mrs. Hannetstein and Mrs. Hannetstein's a big
friend of Mrs. Kraft and there you are.  _I'm_ just shunted out of the
way!  Not wanted in Chester!  Not trusted on my own in Doomington!
It's filthy!  And to be locked up with a lot of old women!"

"I hope it won't be so rotten for you after all!  If the weather keeps
fine----"

"Don't be so _hinty_, Philip!  But all right, in any case there isn't
any real reason why we shouldn't go out together sometimes, is
there?--so long as we keep it dark.  I suppose Mrs. Kraft would pack me
off straight away, the _woman_, if she sniffed that I was carrying on!"

"But talking isn't carrying on?"

"You have no idea what filthy minds they've got, all of them!  But look
here, Mr. Philip, we're out on the main road now and those are the back
windows of Wenton House.  They might be spying out even now, some of
them!  You can't tell with these females!  I'll tell you what, just
slip back into the lane and follow on in five minutes, don't you think?
Good-bye, Percival, see you to-morrow?  _Such_ thanks for rescuing me
from the bulls!  Good-bye!"

Philip slipped back into the lane, his head whirling.  Bewildering,
audacious, inexplicable girl!  So beautifully friendly and candid, and
so intelligent, and so much a woman of the world--a concert-singer!
And she took one as one's equal, not as a nice school-boy who was only
just putting his nose into the world.  Philip was flattered and
excited.  He sat down against the hedge, and his hand wandered for his
handkerchief towards the pocket sewn on his shirt.  As he extracted the
handkerchief, something crackled.  The letter, Channah's letter, with
his mother's signature!  He had forgotten all about her!  Oh, what a
hog he was!  Probably coughing her chest out on the sofa that very
moment!  A tiny feeling of revolt against the compelling Mamie entered
his heart.  Almost forgotten his mother!  That would never do!  But
what eyes she had, smiling and dark and secret, even if she was so
charmingly frank on the outside!  There was tragedy in those eyes!
Yes, he was sure there must be tragedy in her life somewhere.  Poor
girl! he murmured protectively.  By the time he reached Wenton House he
had constructed for her a sombre Greek background against which her
proud bright spirit shone unyielding.  Poor girl! he repeated.  But
what eyes! he mused finally, what eyes!

Next morning no letter arrived.  He was furious, chiefly with Channah.
"What does she mean by promising me and then letting me down like this!
Another of her rotten old actor-heroes; absolutely sloppy about them,
she is!  I wonder how mother can be!  They ought to know how anxious
they'd make me not writing after they'd promised!  Absolutely filthy,
taking the bloom off a chap's holiday, the only holiday I've ever had!"
He spilt his coffee with bad temper.  Mrs. Kraft stared sourly from her
post at the "ladies'" table.  Philip rushed out after breakfast to
compose a letter of fierce invective.  It then occurred to him that if
his mother was worse, his letter wouldn't help.  He tried to convince
himself that she was better and that Channah had therefore not thought
the letter worth bothering about.  He tore up the letter, but his bad
temper increased.  The morning passed very dully and he was too sullen
to be interested in the munificent substitution of fried for boiled
potatoes at dinner.  But as the afternoon shadows deepened, his feet
took him disconsolately towards the lane where the cow-and-Mamie
episode had taken place.  In that direction lay, he felt, the only
oasis in the ennui of Wenton.  An absurdity suddenly struck him.  Here
was the romantic, the poet, who had once rhapsodized over a blade of
grass and shouted for glory at a bird's song, here was he, with strange
sweet singers on every branch of unnamed trees, with wild flowers
dappling the meadows, scented weeds filling the streamside air, here
was he dull and sulky and stupid!  What was coming over him?  Had the
year ended in too feverish a bout of work?  But of course it was
Channah and that letter!  Hang the girl, why hadn't she written?  Yet
that wasn't all, there was something else making him unquiet, setting
up cross currents in these free Wenton days which until recently had
seemed a dream not for a dreary time capable of realization.  What else
beside Channah?  Oh, yes, here was the lane where he had seen the
huddling mass of blue.  Mamie!  Undoubtedly, it was that weird girl
with the dark eyes putting things out of tune!  He didn't like her!
There was too much assurance about her....  By Heaven, here she was,
sitting demure and watchful on the further side of a sycamore!

"Good afternoon, Philip!"

"Good afternoon, Miss--er, Miss Daventry!"

"Well, if you won't call me Mamie, I can't say I really mind, you know!
But I don't think it's at all friendly of you!  That I don't!
Particularly after----"

"I'm fearfully sorry, Mamie!  I didn't think you'd really like to,
after only meeting yesterday!"

"After all, what does that matter with girls and boys like me and you!
Won't you just sit down here, or are you going on...?"

"Oh, if you'll let me----"

"Yes, do!  Now what is it is bringing that nasty frown on Philip's
forehead!  Out with it, he mustn't look so worried or Mamie will think
all sorts of things!"

"It's about, well, it's about a letter!"

"Oh, oh!" said the girl teasingly.  "Oh, oh!  Tell us all about her!
And you do look so young to be carrying on!  I said to myself when I
first saw you, I said, 'Now there's a young man an innocent girl like
me's got to be careful of!  I can see it in his eyes, I can'!"  She
hummed the words of a song.  She momentarily forgot her friend as she
pursued a phrase along a trilling tremolo.  And then, "Oh, yes, where
are we!  A letter from his little sweetheart!  Oh, oh, Philip!"

"It isn't!" Philip declared.  He explained haltingly the nature of the
letter.

"Oh, don't worry about that sort of thing on holiday!" enjoined Mamie
airily.  "_I_ never would, not if my mother were dying of the croup!
And if your sister doesn't keep her promises, she's a cat and it's her
own look-out!  Oh no, no, no, don't let a little thing like that worry
you!"

"Really, don't talk of her like that!  She's a sport!  She's not a cat!"

"Did I say your sister was a cat?  Oh, I didn't mean that, you didn't
get me proper.  You see it's like this....  Oh, hell!  It's not worth
bothering about!  What was I going to say?  Let me see--yes!  Don't be
afraid of me, Philip, why don't you move up a bit, there's room enough?
That's right!  Now let's talk about something interesting, not letters
and stuff!"

A flame of resentment was smouldering in Philip.  He was searching
round for something to say which would re-establish his self-respect.
Peculiar girl!  There was no making her out!  What was she doing?  She
was holding his hand!  What soft fingers she had!  She stroked his
wrist, then his forearm.  Quaint waves of pleasure went tingling along
his backbone.  She was leaning her head on his shoulder.  Her lovely
hair was blowing against his cheek, her bosom was pressing warmly
against him.

"Philip!" she said.  He made no reply.  "Philip!" she repeated.  What
was there to say?  He liked the feel of her against him, he liked the
eyelashes curling from her eyes.  "Say something, Philip!"

"Mamie," he said lamely, "it's awfully nice of you to be so--to be----"

"Hush, Philip, do be quiet!"

They sat thus for some time, Philip's mind drowsing in an unfamiliar
content.  They rose at last and separated at the corner of the lane.
When he thought, half an hour later, of the letter which had not been
sent, he murmured, "Oh, it's all right, I'll hear to-morrow!  Nothing's
the matter, nothing!"  He could feel still the softness of her hair on
his cheek.

Channah's note next day was shorter than the last.  She did not mention
her oversight of the previous day.  Once more the signature of his
mother lay crooked and inexpressibly precious at the foot of the page.

"I told you so!" said Mamie triumphantly that evening.  "_Absolutely_
no need to worry!  Hold my arm a wee bit tighter!"

When no letter arrived the following day, it required no great effort
to allay the pangs of unease.  "To-morrow!" he said.  "It'll be all
right to-morrow!  I wish Channah weren't so lazy.  Now mother's getting
better there really isn't any excuse...."

Channah's note of the next day was almost curt.  "Mother getting on
just the same.  Looking forward to your coming back."

But surely there was a change in mother's signature!  Oh, surely!  He
took his wallet from his pocket and removed the two letters he had
already received.  A numbing anxiety gripped him.  It was quite
impossible to doubt that the Yiddish letters of the latest signature
were sprawling about weakly, the vertical strokes ending in impotent
scratches.  "God!" he exclaimed in sudden fright.  "Nothing can be
wrong!"  He tried to reassure himself.  "She was very tired, that's
what it is!  Oh, _she's_ all right!  But what if anything were to
happen to her while I'm away!  That's absurd!  Can't a person make a
few scratches in signing a letter without giving rise to silly
nightmare ideas?  I don't know what on earth's wrong with me these last
few days!  I wish I hadn't met Mamie!  She always seems to be
quarrelling with mother inside me!  What on earth is wrong with me!
What have I got to drag Mamie in for!  Quarrelling with mother!  Isn't
that a stupid thing to say about the poor girl!  Poor Mamie!  Oh, damn
Mamie!"

They had made an appointment for that evening in a quiet angle between
a barn and a hayrick.  "I'll be damned if I'll go and see her!"  But at
tea that day she looked towards him with such careful languor and
winked her large fine eye so solemnly that his resolve weakened.
"After all _she's_ done nothing!  I wish I weren't so anxious about
mother, things would be so splendid ... Would you pass the bread and
butter, please!  Thank you!"

She kept him waiting for twenty minutes.  He fumed, his temper was
thoroughly chafed.  "Curse it!  I'll go back home to-morrow, I can't
bear this filthy suspense!  What does she mean by keeping me hanging
about like this!"  A corncrake creaked from an adjacent field.  "Oh,
the idiot!" he swore.  "I'll wring its dirty neck!  I'll go away if she
doesn't turn up in three minutes!  Can anything really be wrong at
home!  After all, the doctor said she was coming round--oh, blast that
bird!"  His foot knocked angrily.  "Hello!" he whistled.  "What's
that?"  From quite close at hand a low singing travelled towards him.
It was a cold voice, but peculiarly sweet.  It was a mere tune, without
meaning or words, but it soothed him like a cool hand on the forehead.
Its pitch was low, like a tiny bird's.  Probably the voice could not be
heard at all a few yards away.  The singing was for himself, a message!
Then he saw a slight foot and a blue skirt emerge beyond the corner of
the hayrick and black hair floated into view.  The warbling became
clearer, though not less soft, the dark eyes of Mamie were beaming upon
him and her rich red lips were ravishing their music upon the little
space between the barn and the hayrick.  Philip lay back, soothed and
drowsed, the melody played about him like a fountain.

She was by his side, having said not a word; her singing was reduced to
the very verge of sound.  Then she was silent, her two arms round
Philip's waist.  The corncrake croaked unheard.  He put his two hands
on her cheeks and looked into her eyes.  There was a glint of mockery
lurking among their shadows.

"Can I----?" he asked whispering, yearning, afraid.

"You little fool!" she said.  And saying this, she seemed old as the
line of high hills which swung against the southward horizon.  From a
gloom of generations she spoke, a desiring animal voice sounding from a
depth of many histories.

"You little fool!  Haven't I been waiting for it!  Oh, you slowcoach!"

His lips darted hungrily to hers.  His body was aflame.  He pressed her
hard against his breast.  His lips relaxed, but hers were still
passionate, remorseless, unslacking.  Then at last their lips fell
apart.

"Oh!" she said, and there was a hint of a squeak in her voice.  "Oh,
now wasn't that really nice!"

Even now he had room to be shocked at her unfortunate choice of an
adjective.  "Sweetheart!" he said, "It was more!  It was full and
golden like the harvest moon!  It was like a flooded river, foaming
gold in the sunset!  It was, it was--Oh, for God's sake don't let me
make a speech!  Kiss me!"

"Oh, but I like you to!  Say it again, Philip!  Take one hand away, put
it on your heart, like so!  Now fire away!"

"Mamie, how can you tease a chap, now--_now_!  At a time when----"

"Now you're going to be sloppy!  I can beat you at that game!  Bend
closer!" she enjoined, playing her fingers about in his hair.  "How do
you like this one?"

The lines of her bosom were soft and only half-secret as he held her,
looking dazedly into her eyes.  He was kissing her eyelids and the
hollows under the eyes.  "Philip!" she murmured, "How delincate of you!"

The word impinged, now as he kissed the slender fringe of those dark
eyes, unpleasantly against his skin.  But she lifted her eyelids once
more and once more he was drowning in sensuous waters, flickering
weakly down dim lights and warm opaque shadows.

They said little.  It was all a playing with their faces and hands and
lips.  He seemed to be growing deeper and deeper into her.  She was
leaning against him, pale, a little tired, it seemed.  Once more his
head was stooping to her lips.  Without warning, he found her rising to
her feet and standing over him.

"Mamie!"

"We'd best stop!  That'll do, Philip Massel!  Leave some till next
time...."

"Mamie, but what..."

"Good-night!"

He saw her pass swiftly from view as she flickered round the angle of
the barn.

"Mamie!" he shouted.  "What's the matter?  What on earth have I done?"

No reply came back to him.  He rose a little dizzily and came out into
the evening.  He saw the trees kissing each other in a little wind.
The strange sweet smell of her kisses was on his lips.  He saw two
horses in a field rubbing their heads together.  Clouds overhead kissed
and mingled.  Leaves fluttering kissed each other and darted aloof,
only once more to bring their lips together.  He heard a stream along
the field where he was standing so crazed and tired, lipping and
kissing the pebbles.

"Mamie!" he whispered.  "She loves me!"  Overhead the cry of rooks
came, raucously, ironically.  "Don't believe it!  Don't believe it!
Don't-you-believe it!"  Who was being ironical?  Was it he, was it the
rooks?  "Don't believe it!" they cawed.  "To hell with you all!" he
shouted into the black vortex.  He lifted his hand to his mouth as if
to retain there the impress of her lips.

"I needn't be a fool about it!" he muttered through his teeth.

He fell asleep that night with a sense of the closeness of her face.
Dimly and dazed he remembered that her lips had seemed to drink him up.
Engulfed in her, he lay sleeping at length.  And yet was he truly
asleep?  From what world came this enamel can with the rusted edges,
from the real world, from the world of unintelligible dreams?  Oh, yes,
of course; he recognized it!  It was the can that hung on a nail over
the scullery sink.  They were filling the can with water, unseen and
pale hands holding it to the guttering tap.  "Don't think of them!" the
girl said, "think of my lips!  Aren't they juicy, aren't they sweet?"
But processionally, as though that cheap can were a flagon of holy
wines, they were bearing it away, along the lobby, and towards the
front door.  The cat was crying eerily from a shut room.
Tick--tick--tick! moaned the clock.  Candles fluttering! ... Good girl,
Mamie!  Here she was, with flushed cheeks and tossing hair!  Wouldn't
let them have it all their own way, she wouldn't!  The can of water
stood--why, why? stood at the pavement's edge.  She lifted the can and
threw the water away, but the can dropped from her fingers, and here
once more was the can at the pavement's edge, full once more with dark,
mournful waters.  "Never mind them!" she whispered.  She bent towards
him, her eyes desirous.  Yet ever quenchless, like a vase of tears, the
can stood at the pavement's edge.  And here was Mrs. Levine, sodden
flour on her apron, and long, torn wools fluttering from her shawl.
She was wringing her hands.  She bent towards the can of water.  "Look
away!" said the girl fiercely.  A rumbling of wheels...

A cock was crowing.  The leaves of a full tree were swishing against
the window.  Philip opened to the dawn red and apprehensive eyes.


But his first remembrance as he stared towards the oblong of eight
lights was not the girl, not all the grape-dark kissing; it was a
sudden stab of contrition--"The letter!  My mother's signature!  By
God, what a swine I was!  I forgot!"

Mrs. Kraft read the names of the recipients of letters during
breakfast.  Nothing?  Nothing for Philip Massel!  He stared savagely
towards Mrs. Kraft.  She might have read out his name alongside of the
fools she had mentioned; he needed his letter a thousand times more
than they!  He turned resentful eyes towards Mamie.  Mamie was
chattering sweetly with Mrs. Hannetstein.  He stumbled into the garden
and sat disconsolately against a trunk.  The self-satisfied buzzing of
a bee over its tremendously exaggerated labours annoyed him acutely.
Minutes passed.  His despondency and irritation became more and more
unbearably stupid.  He had allowed himself to forget her, he had
allowed those hungry quiet eyes to slip from his heaven, he had
allowed--oh, what a maddeningly fierce scarlet was the geranium in
those precise window-boxes!  What an insane monotony of triplicate
phrases that shallow fat bird sang yonder, the bird with the mottled
breast!  What a gawky youth was this passing through the front gate
with a bumpkin leer and corkscrew feet, a foolish little ochre envelope
held stiffly before him!  He leaned back against the tree and closed
his eyes tiredly.  How long would it take before she would really be
about?  Of course it had been a boast, a joke, that she'd have a
monstrous _kuggel_ to greet his return!  His head was buzzing foolishly.

"Philip Massel!  A telegram for you!"  Of course that had nothing to do
with him!  Who the hell was Philip Massel, anyhow?  He heard the
metallic tinkling of a grasshopper, and saw against his shut eyelids
huge yellow spheres like brandy-balls and blue rings and spectral
vapours.

"Philip Massel!  Didn't you hear?  A telegram, I said!"

The bumpkin was grinning towards him.  At the front door Mrs. Kraft
stood, arm outstretched.  Philip turned a frightened face from youth to
woman, from woman to youth.  He came forward and opened the envelope.

  "Mother dangerous return immediately.
      CHANNAH,"

he read.

A blare of terror sounded in his brain like trumpets.

"Mrs. Kraft!" he choked.  "My mother's dying!  Oh, quick, I've got to
go home!"

From very far away her voice came.  "You must have some hot coffee
before you go!  The next train's the eleven-twenty!"

"You don't know what she's like!" said Philip, burning with a sudden
tremendous desire to make this woman understand over whose beloved,
intolerably beloved head, lay hideous shadow.

"I know!" the woman was saying.  "I've been through it all!"  She had
taken Philip's arm.  "Come in now, you can't go off at once!  Poor lad,
I'm sorry!  But then, perhaps, all will turn out well.  Jane!" she
shouted, "bring some strong coffee in at once!"

"I don't want anything!" he said.  But he found the coffee scorching
his palate and coursing hotly down his throat.  He found Mrs. Kraft by
his side, as he started to fold things into his bag with hands which,
uselessly suspended at the wrists, seemed to be lumps of lead.  A shirt
fell from his fingers to the floor as though it were woven of metal
threads.  Mrs. Kraft bent quietly to the shirt, folded it and tucked it
away; the boy for one moment swung round to look at her, through a gap
in the clouds which had gathered about his head.  "What's been wrong
with me all this time?" he speculated.  "I've never seen this woman
before, I've never been in the same room!"  She had passed repeatedly
from his vision like a cart going by on a crowded road--bearing no
lineaments of her own, being merely a thing of which his senses had
been half-conscious.  Was she stern, forbidding?  He did not know.  Was
she, as she seemed now, a grave-eyed woman, quiet, full of pity?  How
could he argue it out now, while the straps were fumbling from his
ineffectual fingers, and like a vigilant automaton, her hands had
usurped his own?

"Harry Levi!" he heard her shout into the garden.  "Go with Philip
Massel to the station and carry his bag for him!"

She mumbled a difficult word of sympathy and the blank door lay between
him and Mrs. Kraft.  Three and four and five times Harry Levi asked,
"Is she chucking you out, Massel, or wot is it, eh?"  He had no quarrel
with Harry Levi.  There was no reason why he should not be civil to
Harry Levi; but his lips would not move, and the roof of his mouth was
like burnt crust.  Harry Levi relapsed into an injured and simmering
silence.

There were minutes of waiting at the station, minutes blank and ugly
and high like the wall of a factory.  The train came hurtling in from
among the hills, uttering as it approached the station a lugubrious and
prolonged howl.  The howl reverberated through all the corners of
Philip's heart, rocking, shuddering, dismally dying away.

He was in the train at last.  "I must face the fact, I must face the
fact!"  Chu--chu--chu! the train went, chu--chu--chu!  "Face the fact!
Face the fact!"  As he lay in the corner of the carriage, huddled like
a discarded coat, he realized that the fool's paradise in which he had
lived lay about him futile and desolate.  A puff of wind and the walls
had tottered, there was a groaning of uprooted beams, a smell of hot
dust, overhead the intolerable eye of the sun looking sourly down!
Fool he had been!  Had he not seen her dying before his eyes, year by
year, day by day!

A little specious voice whispered, "But Channah says she's only ill.
She doesn't say--not that!  Perhaps it won't ... really, Philip, you
can't tell ... perhaps...!"

"Dangerously ill!" Philip countered, "Dangerously ill!"

"Quite, I see!  But not--not the other thing....  Other people have
been dangerously ill and yet, you know...."

It was only the somnolent fat man opposite to him, whose belly curved
below a heavy gilt chain and whose huge red cheeks cushioned curved
long eyelashes, who prevented Philip from leaping to his feet and
shrieking wildly.  "Enough of your lies!  I've allowed myself to be
taken in long enough!  Oh, for God's sake be quiet now, be quiet, or
I'll go mad!"

The puerility, the futility of it all!  And had he assured himself that
though all other women soever in the tremendous history of the world
had died, she alone would be exonerate, for his sake, forsooth--she who
now perhaps was lying dead...?  No, that at least could not be!  She
would wait for him.  By God, God would pay for it if she was not
allowed to wait for him!

Oh, speed on, speed on, reluctant and sombre train!  Devour the
separating miles, throw the hills behind you, plunge forward to the
cities, speed on or she shall be dead!  Oh, carry me swiftly to her
waiting eyes!  Her eyelids are heavy!  Keep them not waiting so long
that they shall droop, droop!  Oh, swifter, swifter!

What mercy could he expect from the train?  Had he not known all along
and kept the knowledge safely hidden in his furthest recesses?  Of
course she had insisted on his going away from her!  She had known that
this was coming!  She had determined to keep him immune from the shadow
whose fringes she knew to be even then hanging over the house in Angel
Street!  But it had been for him to stand fast, to say--"No, mother,
I'm not going!  Whatever you say, I must, I will be with you!"  She
would have understood with that wisdom of hers which lay far from her
mere lips, was glimpsed but fitfully in the cloudy hollows of her eyes.

Of course he had known!  What else had he meant by that insistence on
her signature!  It must have been patent to them all how he had dared
to go in the teeth of so imperious a premonition that he demanded her
handwriting from day to day.  That girl....!  The memory of her pecked
at the flesh between his ribs like some insatiable bird!  Kissing,
fooling round with her hair, her lips, while she lay weakening, dying.
A sound crawled through his teeth.  In his own ears it was cavernous,
heavy, loud.  Suddenly self-conscious, he looked nervously up to the
fat man, but the heavy chin still hung placidly relaxed and the
shoulders were lifting a little to the incipient snores.

The window beside him was shut.  His shirt and collar seemed to have
fastened tight round his throat, choking him.  He dropped the window
with a crash and the cool air came surging in.  It was not enough, and
he set his face out against the jaws of the wind and felt its chilly
comfort washing the roots of his hair.

Swifter, swifter, train, absorb the miles!  That white house below the
chimney stack on the horizon there, shall we never outstrip it?
Grinning there in its unapproachable immobility!  Ah, now, the horizon
swivels round on a pivot, and swift for your callous face, oh, white,
grinning house!  Wind, wind, what message do you bring from her?  Is
she waiting?  No, no, I shall not come too late!

Who's speaking?  "That'll do, young feller-me-lad!"  The draught has
awakened the dozing fat man.

His lips vibrate with growing indignation.  "Shoot that winder oop and
sit tha down!  Awake sin' fower o'th'clock and tha wilt go playin'
tricks with winders, wilt'a... ?"

The window is replaced along the full length of its groove, and with a
rumbling from the gills, a slight outraged crest-heavy swinging, the
fat man once more slides away into somnolence.

What shall he do as the slow miles dawdle by?  Poetry!  How long he has
deserted poetry!  What strange affinity had there been between poetry
and beetles!  Rarely, rarely since those old days of crackling
wall-paper and whisperful spent cinders where the beetles crawled, had
a pencil, busy a moment ago on the annotation of vacuous texts, found
itself scrawling rhymes and dreams.  He had felt that poetry would not
come his way again, but now ... as the train beat like a living pulse,
now that his own heart seemed to be moving forward and backward again,
a great shining piston ... He hunted in his pockets for a pencil, took
out a blunt stump, and lifted an envelope from the same pocket.  With a
quick dart of anguish he realized it was the last letter he had
received from Channah, where already the signature of his mother
sprawled with the impotence of death.  He flung the pencil away as if
the impulse which had produced it from his pocket had been treason.  He
remembered with bitter mirth an anticipatory consolation he had once
frequently imbibed.  At the same time as he had persistently assured
himself of his mother's immortality, he had whispered, smirking, "Yes,
but when she does die, won't I start writing wonderful poetry!
Marvellous elegies that'll make Gray sound like a threepenny
kettledrum!  I'll make 'em sit up!  And I'll have a little book bound
in soft red leather..."  The tortured lad winced as he brought to mind
the old fatuity.  He would make capital out of her death, would he,
little books bound in soft red leather!  How well he knew now he would
be like a fallen leaf on a road trodden by a thousand feet!

Oh, swifter, train!  Never train moved so slowly!  He moved from
against the fat man and pushed the opposite seat ludicrously with his
feet to bring the train sooner to Doomington.

He was holding the envelope in his hand.  And he had allowed the girl
called Mamie to persuade him to take no alarm in the weakening of the
signature.  He had suppressed the instinct from swimming into clear
consciousness, the instinct to return at once before the hand weakened
into the last torpor.  Now at length the contest and the protagonists
of which his mind had been the arena stood starkly before him, and he
knew, with what shame, what despair, who had prevailed.  Mamie and a
tickling of the lips, shafts of shy pleasure about the loins--and his
mother, waiting.  With abrupt clarity, the enamelled can which last
night had prevailed over the disorder of his dreams, returned.  Now
clearly he realized the heart-breaking symbolism of the enamel can; not
merely symbolism!  Soon the can should be not merely a symbol, but a
fact; soon, perhaps now!

In all his forethought of death, not in especial relation with his
mother, but with anybody he loved or knew, one element in the Jewish
custom had brought him most distress.  Frequent observation had
instructed him that when a dead body lay beyond the doors of a Jewish
house, a vessel of water and a bucket to replenish it were placed at
the edge of the pavement.  As the living passed by the place of death,
the vessel was lifted to sluice from each hand alternately of the
passer-by the contamination issuing from the melancholy doors.  It was
a sign of death which had sometimes come upon him so suddenly but with
such incontrovertible assertion that it had long filled the crevices of
his mind with horror.

The actual enamel tin of his dreams he also recognized.  It had been
condemned a long time ago to the scullery at Angel Street, because the
enamel had been chipped by old service from its edges, and it now hung,
he well remembered, on a rusted nail by the sink.  It had been used by
his father and himself for the hand-washing which preceded every meal.
There could be no vestige of doubt that when the time came for this
desperate and bitter use, the enamel can would be lifted from the nail
and would contain cold water for cleansing at the pavement's edge.

Ah, how he realized now what Mamie was endeavouring to do when she had
lifted the enamel can in his dreams and thrown away the water, and the
can had fallen from her fingers.  Once more she sought to delude him
into believing that all was well, that the deadly need did not exist
for the cleansing of hands at the enamel can.  Even as she had sought
to assure him that all was well with the writing in Channah's letter!
Too late!  There at the pavement's edge, despite her duplicity, the
enamel can lay once more, its little lake of grey water reflecting the
grey sky.  Here came a woman, swaying in her sorrow, her shawl slipping
from her head!  She stooped.  Over the knuckles of the left hand washed
the water, over the knuckles of the right.

Philip shivered suddenly.  What if he actually found the enamel can
outside the doorsteps?  Could he bear to go into the house?  No, that
at least he had not deserved!  Not that!  She would wait, he knew she
would wait.

But see! the streets were now set thick along the path of the railway,
dingy parallels, skulking streets at right angles.  The fields had long
been engulfed in red brick, grey brick.  The town once more was
gathering about his lungs.  And there, pretentious, ugly, forbidding,
like the policemen for whom it was their focal centre, reared the
chimney of the prison on Doomington Road.  The fat man blinked with
alarm as the train jarred and jolted into the station.

"Doomington!" Philip murmured, "Be kind, God!"



CHAPTER XIV

The tramcar stopped at a corner nearer the station by one block of
buildings than Angel Street.  Rayman, the butcher, was hacking away
with indecent enthusiasm at a hulk of ribs.  At Lansky, the draper's,
unconcerned girl assistants were measuring lengths of cloth by
outstretching one corner and lifting the other to the teeth.  Philip
noticed with an acute realization of detail the stupid cat with a
closed eye and a foolish blue ribbon round its neck which was arching
its back lasciviously against a woman's leg.  The distance he had
walked could scarcely have been more than fifty yards, yet when he came
to Moishele's shop at the corner it seemed to him for one moment that
he had been walking and walking since dawn broke.  Above him and across
the intervening gap of the street, on the side wall of the "Crown Inn,"
and over the advertisement for Groves and Whitnall's Ale, he read on an
oblong plaque, "Angel Street."

Angel Street!  He dared not put into words what he feared.  Must he
turn into the street?  Oh, turn swiftly, swiftly, never a moment to
lose!  A small clump of figures down the street brought momentary
terror over his blurred eyes, until he made out the wheels and the
containing boards of a fruit-handcart.

Thank God, nothing!  Nothing at the pavement's edge outside the steps
of his father's house!  Quietly he knocked.  He could hear his heart
knocking loudly as the hand knocked.  Channah came to the door; pale
she was, with wide, dark eyes.  A spurt of light came into her eyes
when she saw Philip standing there, then the light flickered away.

"How is she?"

"Bad!  Go in and see!"

"Just take my bag away.  Oh, Channah, I thought I'd never get here!"

"Give it me and go in!  She's been asking for you!"

"But why didn't you send for me before?  Why did you let me stay away
so long?  How could you do it?  If I hadn't come home in time, Channah,
oh, think..."

"But it's all been so sudden, so sudden!  Only two or three days ago
she broke down suddenly.  She just crumpled up.  You never saw such a
difference in a day or two!  Oh, it's been terrible!  Let's come away,
we mustn't keep the door open!  Why are you standing there like that,
Philip!  Shake yourself, be sensible!"

"Nothing, Channah, nothing!  Oh, tell me, why did you persuade me to go
away, both of you?  If I ever forgive you, can I forgive myself?"

"Philip, let me close the front door!  Come in, don't stand like a
stone!  I can't understand you; why don't you go in at once, she's been
asking for you, I tell you!"

"Don't you see how I'm afraid?  It's on my mind--what I just said!  Why
did you let me go?"

"We hadn't the least idea of anything.  You'd have upset her if you'd
missed the chance.  You'd have brought it about sooner!"

"Do you think she really meant it--about the _kuggel_?  Wasn't she just
joking?"

"No.  She wanted to get up to make you some and send it to you!  Emmes,
Philip, if it isn't true!"

He had been standing stiff in each joint, touched as with frost.
Suddenly all his body drooped.  His voice fell to an almost
unintelligible whisper.  "Let me go in to her....!"

He moved the few steps to the parlour door and turned the handle.  He
was at her bedside.  Only her eyes he first saw.  They were larger,
warmer, deeper than they had been at any time before.  Because of the
eyes, he was not immediately conscious with the whole of his mind of
the pallor in which they were set: not merely pallor, a bloodless
yellow.

But the consciousness of this pallor was soaking through each pore of
his body and mind, even as he bent to kiss her powerless lips; even as
he rose and was saying, "Look, mother, mother!  I'm back from Wenton!"
The consciousness of her pallor so steeped each atom, each corpuscle in
him that he became yellow as she.  Still, for her sake, he held his
lips firm against his teeth, subdued the impulse in his four limbs to
fling themselves wildly, wildly, upon the floor.  She was too weak to
answer.  He saw her mouth endeavour to frame words and abandon the
attempt.  Only by a lifting of the eyelids she showed the joy at the
centre of that waning heart, and by the dim flush of colour which
spread across her cheeks.

He knew not for what length of time he stood motionless over a body so
thin it hardly seemed to break the line of the counterpane.  At last he
became aware that the door had opened and Channah had come through.

"Let me just come near her, Philip, I'll see if she can take a drop of
milk!  Dorah's in the kitchen!  She wants you to go in and have some
food!"

"Not now!" he whispered.

There was a shuffling with utensils on the bedside table.  The sound
seemed to relax a chain which had held the boy taut.  He staggered a
few steps and, perceiving the moth-eaten yellow plush arm-chair near
him, he sank into it with convulsive abandonment.  Now he became
consciously and fully aware of the shock he had endured.  Sometimes in
his dreams he had seen her dead.  One dream of them all had lifted his
eyelids at midnight from eyes glassy with horror.  Now as it came back
to him, he winced and writhed.  He had seen her head lying on that
copper tray where each Sabbath eve she had placed the uncut bread
before her husband.  Beside her head lay a squat beaker of wine, the
beaker over which, before the meal began, Reb Monash incanted the
_kiddush_ with shut eyes.  In a groping, childish way he had
endeavoured to exorcise the terror of this dream by rationalizing it,
by relating the hideous phantasm to the fabric of reality.  He knew
that the copper tray gleaming always like smooth dark mahogany might
stand as symbol of the heavy labours which year by year reduced her to
a ghost.  She had the Jewish housewife's intense pride in the
cleanliness and beauty of her home.  Each Thursday evening the kitchen
table was littered with trays, brass candlesticks, beakers, tins of
polish, dusters.  Though the reek of the polish was offensive to her
lungs and sent her into fits of coughing, no Thursday evening saw the
arduous ritual abated by one iota.  But Philip knew that the
significance of the dream lay deeper than this.  Obscurely he realized
that the beaker of wine represented all the sacerdotalism of his race;
in some way far too profound for his guessing the vision of the severed
head was complicated with that antique ritual, so magnificently alive
and yet so ineffably dead.  The head was lying on that tray of her own
devoted polishing throughout the doomed years, lying as an offering to
the impendent bearded God of his race.  The cavernous lips opened as
the beaker rose to their glooms.  "I am that I am!" a voice moaned
among endless colonnades of hills toppling towards the verges of space.
How came it that the eyes of Jehovah aloof among the chasmed clouds
were the eyes of Reb Monash, sitting upon his peculiar and inalienable
chair in the corner of the kitchen?  And the copper tray was a lake
profound with many distances and many generations where dim ancestral
shapes flickered from deep to deep.  Twofold tyrannies along the
deliberate reaches of the Nile, wildernesses and weak lads straggling
and dying in the wake of the wanderers, smitten lands of exile,
_Kossacken_ galloping in with sabres and flung beards, a slight lad
crumpled in a moth-eaten yellow plush armchair, crumpled, broken, too
mournful for any tears.

He had seen her dead in dreams, but never so pale, so shrunken as now,
her mouth retaining little if any at all of the weak, warm milk Channah
was lifting on a spoon.  An ague shivering visited his whole body.
Clearly he brought her to mind as she hovered round him with cherries
and tea on those immortal afternoons; he saw her struggling with the
Acroceraunian mountains, her lips humorously twisting to shape the
alien syllables.  He remembered the quiet pride with which, long ago,
she had regarded Reb Monash as he sat oracular in his chair, his
admirers drinking with reverent avidity the wine of wisdom flowing from
his lips.  The boy's throat shook with harsh, suppressed sobs.

Channah spoke.  "Philip, she's calling to you!"

Not a tear had risen to his eyes.  He bent over his mother with a wan
smile.  Weakly, slowly, she spoke.  He knew that she had been lying
there, waiting to summon up the strength with which to frame a few
words.

"_Nu_, Feivele, my own one.  Art thou feeling stronger for being away?"

"Mother, loved one," he replied in her own Yiddish.  "Yes, stronger.
But I had rather I had been with thee!"

"Speak not thus!  I was happy to think of thee among the fields.  Didst
thou have a special egg a day and milk?"

"I did!  But no, mother, thou must not talk more!  Thou art not strong
now, but wait, wait ... when thou art better...."

"Be thou not a child!  Feivele, I am going ... going...."

The words were smothered in a tiny dry coughing.  Channah came forward
to help her.  He turned his head away from the forlorn struggle.

Reb Monash had been to the _Polisher Shool_ for minchak.  He returned,
and stood at the door, large-eyed, haunted.

"Thou art back, Feivele?" he said.  He seemed to be searching for
further words, but nothing came.  The voice seemed to Philip to strike
against his skin, then to fall away dully to the floor.

"Yes, _tatte_, yes," he said mechanically, and the abstract sphere in
which his mother dying and his grief and himself seemed to be
encrystalled, closed round him again in separating completeness.

All day greedily he remained with her, knowing with a mournful
exultance that when she gathered strength she would say a few words to
him; yet when these moments came, saying "Hush, mamma, not now!
Sweetest, hush!" bending over her, faintly touching her forehead.

A long time had passed, and he was conscious not merely of hunger, but
of a concrete clawed weakness tearing at the pit of his stomach, before
he allowed Channah to take him into the kitchen and cut some slices of
bread and butter for him and fill a pint mug with tea.  Dorah was there
putting washed plates on the shelves, and as Channah sat down at the
table, she moved away to the parlour to take her place.  Channah was
sitting opposite to him, herself sipping tea, not with any interest,
but because she knew that nothing had crossed her lips since morning.

There had been long silence while Philip ate and drank, his attention
wandering frequently from the food till Channah with a watchful word
recalled his wits.

"Channah," he said suddenly, "when will she die?"

She was startled.  Her cup clattered on the saucer.

"Philip!" she said, in remonstrance.

"Channah," he repeated, "tell me, when will she die?  That's what I
want to know, how long is there?"

He was speaking in regular, subdued tones, with hardly an inflection in
his voice.  It seemed the voice almost of one talking in his sleep.  An
instinct commanded her to remonstrate no further, to fall in at once
with this strange mood, to adopt his tones, to reply with no
equivocation.

"Not long.  Three days ago the doctor said she'd last a week.
Yesterday he said she couldn't last above two or three days.  But only
think--if it had happened before you came back!"

The last consideration made no impression.  "Not more than two or three
days more?" he repeated.

She nodded.

"That was yesterday?" he said.  "So to-morrow is the latest."

"To-morrow is the latest."

"Mother will die to-morrow.  The day after to-morrow she will be dead.
What is the day after to-morrow?"

"To-day's Friday.  It'll be Sunday!"

His voice gathered urgency.  "Boys must go to funerals!" he demanded.

"They must," she said, "they always do!  We don't go," she added.  "You
must go for us!"

"There will be no mother the day after to-morrow?"

"Philip," she wailed, "why must you go on like that?  I can't bear it!
It's been bad enough, but this is worse.  You're looking and talking so
funny I can't make you out.  Go on with your tea, it's getting cold!
I'll put in some tea from the teapot, shall I?"  She hastened to the
fire on unsteady feet.

"Cold," he was repeating, "the day after to-morrow!"

She left the fire and crossed over to him.  "Philip, don't!" she
implored.  She shook him by the shoulders as if he were relapsing into
dangerous sleep.

He blinked.  There was a grinding in his head like a clock running
down.  "Poor old Channah, I'm sorry!  I was hungry and it's made me
dizzy.  What a pig I've been!  What have I been saying?"

"It's all right, I was only joking!" she assured him.  "Be a good old
boy, now, Philip, and have some more tea!  You can't make things any
better by not eating!" she insisted, "So let's try and be sensible!"

"Oh, it's all right, Channah!  You just get on with your own, I've had
enough.  I can't stay away any longer.  You've been attending to her
all this time, while I've been--I've been--" he paused and grimaced,
"I've been enjoying myself.  I must go in straight away.  You keep on
with your tea."

But as soon as he closed the kitchen door behind him, she fumbled for
her handkerchief in her blouse and withdrew to the scullery, her
shoulders rocking.

He was only slightly conscious of the people that came in to see how
she was and of his father sitting speechless in the corner, and Dorah
busy with one thing and another.  He resented the appearance of the
doctor and his cursory examination of her, the negative shaking of his
head towards Reb Monash.  What was there still to be done!  What need
was there to underline so black, so ineluctable a fact?  Perhaps if he
had more frequently envisaged the possibility of her death formerly,
even in the face of her lying so wasted on the bed before him he might
have dared to entertain a wild flicker of hope.  But having only in
dreams seen her dead hitherto, and then with such indignation and
terror even in the depths of his subconscious heart that he would awake
fighting the dark, now the pulse of his soul was smothered in an icy
certitude, and he would allow no forlorn gleam of hope to lead him away
from her, from this last intense communion of which the sands were
running out, moment by ashen moment.

There was a murmuring like wings about their heads and about them the
shuffling of clumsy feet attempting to achieve a vain silence.
Sometimes he would find Reb Monash hanging over them, or Channah and
Dorah whispering together.  One of them might smooth a pillow or lift a
spoon to her lips.  And though he knew that these things were happening
within the same four walls as contained his mother and himself, in the
limitless egotism of his grief it seemed to him that walls far other
than these held them in a remote world, together, inseparable,
undisturbed.

Imperceptibly day had thickened into dusk and dusk into night.  The
incandescent mantle chuckled and flared unevenly.  The last neighbour
had tearfully withdrawn.  He knew that several times Dorah had spoken
to him and that he had answered, yet with no knowledge of the words his
lips were actually shaping.  At last he realized that both his sisters
were urging him to go away, to go to bed.  Channah was trying to draw
him from the chair where he sat leaning over the bed.

"No, no, I'm not going!" he said.

"But you must go!  Channah and I..." started Dorah.

"Go!" said Channah, "only for a few hours!"

"I tell you I've been away all these days and I'm not going away for a
second now!  Let me be quiet, both of you!  You go to bed!  Can't I see
you've been up every night, while I've been sleeping in comfort over
there, not knowing anything!"  He dropped his voice to a tone of
appeal.  "_Do_ let me stay!  If she wants anything, I can manage it.
Dorah, you ought to go up to be near father!" He found himself dimly
conscious for the first time since his return of his father's pallor,
his ghost-like silence.  The vague picture of his father faded away.

"I'll go for two or three hours!" said Dorah.  "When I come down, you
must go up at once!"  Her lanky figure bent awkwardly over Mrs. Massel.
Her thin lips touched the forehead fleetingly.  Channah threw herself
down on her knees beside the bed and babbled incoherent words.

"Go thou, go, my own one!" murmured her mother.  "Thou hast not
slept--how long!  Go, darling, sleep, sleep!"

There followed silence after the women had withdrawn.  Not a word
passed between his mother and Philip.  Sometimes she would close her
eyes for some minutes, then open them once more full and deep upon her
son's.  He remembered how Time had been so dilatory in the train; how
he had wanted hours to shrivel into minutes, the long minutes to be
brief as a spark.  Now Time moved too swiftly, with deadly deliberate
speed.

Beyond the parlour window and high beyond the houses on the other side
of Angel Street, he heard the galloping of horses and the abateless
revolutions of wheels.  Oh, that the moments could expand into hours,
and the hours once more into the years in which he had loved her so
little and she had loved him so well, so well despite the danger that
lay between and the cloud that had always enveloped them.

But now at least there was no danger, no cloud; nothing hindered their
unity.  The whispering of Doomington, that ceased not even in a
snow-muffled winter midnight, now on all sides withdrew, leaving the
dim parlour in Angel Street aloof and calm.  The incandescent light
choked and spat no more.  A still light, steadier than the moon, less
garish than the tree-shaded twilight of glades, invested the room,
converting each object there into a significance beyond ugliness and
beauty.  All accidentals of space and birth and time were stripped from
the woman on the bed, from the boy at her side.  She was the mother, he
was the son, nothing more.  There was a pulsation in the air, between
them and about them, linking them though they were far apart as
Aldebaran and the Earth, though she lay crumbling under her wooden lid
and he strode sun-engirdled over the morning hills.

How long this thing lasted the boy did not know at all, for he did not
even know that it came.  He only knew that Channah was peering round
the door, fearful of waking them if they had fallen asleep.  She
wondered how it came that his face was shining as with dawn, though
still the night was deep and the black incandescent gas flared and
gasped.  She wondered also at the smile which lay curled at the edges
of her mother's lips.  She saw, at one moment, how his eyes looked
calmly towards hers, and how the next moment his head had fallen limply
on his breast.  She came forward swiftly to prevent him slipping to the
ground.

He awoke to find himself lying under a blanket in his own former
bedroom, whither, he learned later, Dorah and Reb Monash had lifted
him.  He stared unseeing for some time into the blotched ceiling, then
the words came tolling against his ears, "The Last Morning!  The Last
Morning!"  He did not at once seize the meaning of the phrase.  He knew
merely that this morning was to be an ending of things.  But when the
phrase became particularized, _whose_ last morning had dawned, slowly
he rose from his bed as a doomed man for the gallows.

It was morning.  The blind had been drawn, but they had left the gas
feebly talking in the incandescent burner.  Shadowy people had already
gathered in the lobby and there were several neighbours in the parlour.
Reb Monash was standing over her bed listening to the faint words she
was endeavouring to shape.  A flicker of jealousy touched the boy's
heart.

"Monash," she said, "it is _shabbos_, yes?"

"Yah, Chayah, the Holy Day!"

"Ah, _gutt, gutt_!"

She could say no more.  He observed how the neighbours would make way
to give each other the privilege of being within the dying woman's room
for some minutes.  Death seemed to be in the room with all the
actuality of physical presence.  He seemed to be standing over Philip's
head leaning dark branches about him like a tree....  No, he would not
let the futile gas burn there while the sun, while even the warped sun
of Doomington, shone into the room!  What were all these people doing
here, treading softly in and out?  Did they hope that she would carry a
brief for their souls into that country whither she was shortly
adventuring?

The clock! the clock! How it ticked relentlessly on the mantelpiece, a
large, round alarm clock with a pale face!

Channah was whispering.  "I think she wants you!"  He brought his ear
close to his mother's lips.

"_Shabbos_," she said, "the Holy Day!  Before _shabbos_ goes, I am no
more, son mine!"

Should he say--the words were almost on his lips--"Mother, mother!  The
sun's shining!  You will be strong yet!  That dress of satin I always
wanted to buy you, I will buy you soon.  You will sit in the parlour
like a queen, only making cakes sometimes, for _yom tov_!  I will take
your arm and we will go out into the green fields.  Birds, mother!  And
blossom on the trees!  Even yet, mother, even yet!"  There was no time
for lovely, false hopes.  He said not a word, but she knew how he was
closer than he had been since the days when he lay, a fluttering
lifeless life, under her heart.

The clock!  The clock!  There was a whispering, a treading.  Some one
had arrived.  They bent to his ear and said, "It's from the _shool_.
Some one has come to say the 'Hear, O Israel!'  Let him be near!"

Channah took him by the arm.  "Come to the door.  Just while the man's
there!  Come!"

A low wailing rose from the room.  "Oh God, Channah," he cried, "Oh,
why do they make all this ceremony out of dying!  Why can't they let
her lie quietly?  Did you hear how her breathing went heavier?  She
wants to die, she's so tired!  And they won't let her!  Oh, listen to
them, send them away!  Let's be alone with her!"

The shadow in the room when they returned seemed palpable.  He could
make out no sound, no appearance clearly, save her face, and the
laboured breathing.  And the clock! always ticking, dispassionately,
relentlessly!  Always the clock!  A rattling in her throat complicated
her breathing.

"Channah," said the boy, "Channah, look at the clock!"  His voice was
hard, mechanical.  "It's a quarter to nine.  At nine o'clock she'll be
dead!"

"Feivele!" his father whispered.  "She's said thy name!  Go!"

"Mother, lovely, I'm here!  What wilt thou?  Ah, see, I'm here!"

"Thou wilt be, Feivele, say it--thou wilt be always a good boy?  And
think ... of thy mother?  Thou sayest yes?"

"Yes, _mutter meine_, yes!"

"And love Channah?  And all, all?  So, I am happy!  Remember, thou,
Feivele!"

The clock stealing, stealing forward!  Not the banded powers of Heaven
shall hold the clock-finger from moving forward over that space black
with doom!  Tick-tock! wild eyes of Channah, Dorah wringing her hands!
Tick-tock! bearded face of Reb Monash, wrapped like a forest in its
griefs!  Tick-tock! a wailing in the air like trees when the wind goes
about mournfully!  Tick-tock! the rattling in her throat!  Oh, the
falling chin, the glazing eye, Oh, dead, dead...!  Tick-tock...!
tock....!


Waters flowing over his head where he lay prostrate on the beach!  Dark
green engulfing waters drowning him beyond grief or tears!  Tricklings
through his nostrils and oozings along the channels of his brain,
runlets boring through the drums of his ears, surge after surge
gurgling over his lips and into the bursting throat!  And how bitter
the taste of the foam, encrusting his palate with a scurf of salt,
bitter as ashes, as sand!  A low desolate bell swinging ceaselessly in
this world of sunken waters, as if the doom of oceans and lands had
been pronounced, and all souls must bestir themselves, howsoever long
ago they were clad in flesh!

And always a whispering, and a secret sound of feet even so low under
the water's rim, whither no sun attained, where the bell swung to and
fro in the lapse of glooms.  The fantastic denizens of these waters!
Things with large phosphorescent eyes shedding tears that flickered
down the watery darkness like worms of fire!  Things with shuffling
feet and lolling heads, bearded things with wise and cavernous skulls,
and one, shaped like a small woman, appearing, disappearing, busy on
important offices beyond all scrutiny!  They would stand over him,
staring with meaningless kindness through the weeds which swayed and
swung over his body.  They would endeavour to lift his hands from their
laxity to receive the offerings they brought, would lift their
offerings to his lips, but too bitter was the savour of brine on his
tongue and his head too weary!  He would turn away from them, burying
his face in the clammy sands.  There had long been a filtered light in
the waters which engulfed the world; the light thickened into opaque
walls.  He could see no more the lolling heads, that busy strange woman
who came and went.  Only darkness, and for how long!  Even the bell was
muffled almost to nothingness, the bell was more a sense than a sound,
the bell seemed to be tolling from the deeps of his own body where he
lay unstarred, tolling from below his bones and making the arm which
lay across his breast lift and fall away.  Once more the light
returning and the sound of feet and the bell louder tolling, louder and
ever louder, until the metal against which the tongue beat and
clamoured, burst into a thousand fragments, and he knew that he shook
with sobs!

Over him stood the busy woman; Mrs. Finberg she was, the shroud maker,
officiator at deaths.  She waited till the hollow sobbing subsided,
then pressed on him hot cup of tea.  This time he did not refuse, did
not turn his head and bury it in the escaping stuffing of the sofa.

After some moments he rose and opened the kitchen door.  He found
Channah proceeding towards the lobby.

"When will it be, Channah?" he asked, "Is it arranged?"

"When will what be?"

"You know, the funeral, I mean!"

"It won't be more than a few hours now!"

"But I don't understand!  Not more than a few hours!  What's the time
now?"

"It's just after nine!"

"Nine o'clock?  But she died at nine o'clock!"

She drew back frightened.  "But that was _yesterday_!"

"_Yesterday_?  Oh, what's the matter with me?  Is it Sunday just now
then?"

"Of course it is!  It was _shabbos_ yesterday!"

"Of course, of course!"  He began to apprehend how time had been
annihilated for him.  "Of course it's Sunday!  What was I talking
about?  And you say it's in a few hours then?"

"The man from the burial society has just been in.  He says the cabs'll
come about two, he thinks; somebody said that funerals are the only
things that Jews are in time about.  Oh, Philip, Philip, they'll not be
late; what does it matter when they come?"

"Oh, so there'll be cabs?"

"Yes, there'll be cabs!"

"And there'll be--you know--a hearse?"

"What do you keep on asking these questions for?  Of course there must
be!"

"What's all those heavy noises for, in the parlour?  What is it they're
moving about?"

"Don't, Philip, don't!  Come back into the kitchen!"

"It's the coffin!  Isn't it the coffin?"

The parlour door was flung open suddenly.  With her hair escaped from
the pins, her hands beating wildly, there stood Dorah, crying shrilly,
with broken catches!  "Come here, Channah, Philip!  Come, look at her
for the last time!  Quick, quick, it'll be too late!"

Channah clung back against him.

"We must go!" Philip whispered.  "Poor old girl, let's go!"

All but her face was covered where she lay, the lid revealing the calm
head.  The room was full of unchecked sobbing.  Grief was round her
like a whirlpool.  How calm she lay at its centre, unperturbed, serene!
A woman was tearing her hair, Dorah beating her breast savagely!  Reb
Monash stood heaped against a corner, his head drooped upon his breast.
Channah, her shoulders convulsively shaking, lay clasped in a woman's
arms.  Philip looked tearless upon his mother's tearless face.  _She_
knew how to take Death quietly, like a queen!  The tinge of yellow had
gone from her cheeks.  They were only white now, placidly white.  Never
before had her face been so wise and sweet.  Oh, the queenly lady ...
mother as never before!

"Go out now, you must go out!" a voice said.

"Never, never!  You'll never take her away!" Dorah shrieked, but the
woman led Dorah out, and Channah after her.  For one moment Reb Monash
and Philip remained in the room, the body between them.  Then they too
went.

Little trickles faltered down the kitchen windows, dulling the light
already so meagre.  Philip looked out into the yard and saw a slow
drizzle falling miserably.  The ground would be sodden, out there.  He
shivered.  A chill rain faltered within him as he turned away, a
drizzle soaking his heart till it was sodden like the cemetery out
along the paved roads, somewhere at a corner of Doomington.  As he sat
motionless, a man approached him and asked him to unfasten his coat.
With leaden fingers he obeyed.  The man seized his waistcoat a little
distance above the first button-hole and held it taut with the left
thumb and first finger.  A razor in the right hand made a two-inch
incision.  The canvas threads sprawled from the gap like exposed nerves.

When the first cab came crunching along Angel Street, he observed with
abstract interest how the wheels, though superficially they seemed to
be arrested outside the front door, still went heavily revolving
towards his ribs and crunched them below their passing, till he could
hardly breathe for the sharp bits of bone sticking in his chest.  Other
vehicles followed.  Two cabs had been subscribed for and sent by the
_Polisher Shool_ to express the sympathy and respect of the
congregation.  One or two other synagogues which had witnessed Reb
Monash's oratorical triumphs paid a like tribute, and there was, of
course, a quotum provided by the burial society out of the Sunday fund
to which Reb Monash had contributed from the first week of his arrival
in Doomington, as knowing that though his family's living might be a
doubtful affair, of death's coming, soon or late, there could be no
doubt.

Some one told him that his father, the _parnass_ and the _gabboim_ of
the _Polisher Shool_ were already installed in the leading cab.  They
were waiting for him.  A lethargy had been creeping about his brain.
"Wasn't there any way of getting out of it?  Why must he go?  Why must
any one go?  Wasn't it finished, finished beyond recall?"

Dorah sat on the sofa swaying regularly from side to side.  He heard
the crying of Channah, hidden somewhere.

"Go thou, go!" moaned Dorah.

He staggered through the front door.  A swift wave of sympathy from the
red-eyed crowd in the street surged towards him.  A horrible
self-consciousness afflicted him and he wilted like a leaf before a
flame.

"What a lovely funeral!" he heard somebody mutter....

He heard the clinking of coins in a tin box.  He remembered.  There was
no wedding, no funeral where the _shammos_ was not to be seen, clinking
his box for the poor.

But the clinking faded from his ears when he discovered with a swift
stare of recognition the tin can at the pavement's edge.  "_Orummer
ingel!_" a woman cried, lifting her voice, "Poor lad!"  The words
grated.  He was glad to find himself in the dark shelter of the cab,
crushed in among the men.

As the procession moved away, he knew that Dorah stood on the steps of
the house, beating her hands together, shouting; that Channah seemed to
run after them like a ghost; she tottered, and the capable arms of
women had seized her, were bearing her away.  The hearse turned the
corner of Angel Street.  The cabs followed.

Still a passionless stupor held him as they moved along Doomington Road
and up Blenheim Road, through Longton, beyond the outskirts of the
Jewish quarter, and to Wheatley at last, where the Jewish cemetery
straggled over the low slope of a hill and the tombstones bore meekly
the inquisitions of the passing trams.

The entrance into the cemetery was a wooden, draughty shed where a few
Prayer Books were lying about on the forms.  The shed was rapidly
filling.  In addition to those whom the cabs had brought were a number
who had travelled by tram.  Soon he found a service beginning and
himself mechanically joining in prayers.  And shortly after he was
moving out into the open with the rest, into the damp air.  They were
moving along the uphill winding path to the cemetery.  The clay
underfoot was difficult for treading.  The atmosphere was full of the
smell of turned earth.  After one or two minutes the untidy procession
paused and the _chazan_ who was officiating at the funeral continued
the wailing chant.  Again they moved forward and again they stopped;
the chant was resumed, until at last they were among the graves.  There
were uprooted weeds, removed by the caretaker from privileged graves,
lying in dank heaps, tainting the tainted air and tangling the narrow
walks among the dead.

This was the place then, this black, deep hole?  The rain was drizzling
into the grave.  If they waited too long, there would be a floor of
clayey water.  It was a deep hole; who had thought that graves were so
deep?  It was true that no disturbance from the harsh world above would
penetrate so far; but if the grave were a little less deep, there would
be communion with the roots of flowers, almost the tiny pattering of
birds' feet.

So he mused, hardly conscious of the solemn chanting and the sobbing
about his ears, until some one whispered that he must throw a clod of
earth into the grave, on to the coffin lid.

Even this, then?  No release, no hope!  A lump of earth fell dully from
his father's hand.  Light would the earth be which her son threw on his
mother's bed!  He lifted a fragment of clay and released it over the
grave.  But heavily the sound came, boomed on his ears.  Others
followed.  He became aware of a new refrain in the threnody round him.
"Beg for me, Chayah!"  "Beg for me, beg the Above One!" they were
shouting into the grave as the coffin disappeared below the rising
earth.  "Beg for me, Chayah!"

He turned away.  No more sound was heard of clay on naked wood.
Terribly, silently, the level rose.  The caretaker had seized the
shovel and was piling more earth on the broken surface.  Behind a tall
white stone with black pillars a little distance away, hidden from the
rest, Philip lay for some time, his face on the damp gravel, at last
realizing how far from all reach they had placed her, beyond all
language, all vision, at the roots of darkness, far from his twitching
fingers.  It was time for the mourners to descend to the shed for
_minchah_.  The _chazan_ was getting restive.

But a few lingered among the stones, coming to read again the
inscriptions over the graves of parents, children, friends, all equally
dead in the Wheatley cemetery, all under the drizzle in uncomplaining
company, all stretched quiet under the levelled clods, which other
sons, fathers, friends had heaped on the coffin lids.

When the crowd had descended, he found Reb Monash sitting alone on a
form against the wall.  The _shammos_ whispered to Philip that he must
be seated alongside his father.  Head swimming, he obeyed.  And now
came _minchah_, the afternoon service.  Reb Monash turned up in a
Prayer Book the _kaddish_, the special prayer of the bereaved.  The
isolation of their two voices frightened him, but he was conscious of a
tense determination that no hitch should take place in this concluding
ceremony, that she should be left, the tired woman, at rest as soon as
they would release her.  He uttered the prayer with dead clarity.

Minchah was over.  In dull wonder he realized that the shammos had
unfastened his father's shoe laces and was unfastening his own.  Reb
Monash rose weakly and walked across the room and Philip followed.  The
crowd desultorily made way for them as they moved, their loose laces
dragging in the dust.  As they were fumbling once more with the tying
of their laces, the black figures were flickering through the door into
the road.

Who of the living shall stay in the place of the dead?  Let the dead
hold such converse together as they can!  Day speeds to night and night
will bring new day.  An emptier day for empty eyes in this place and in
that, but a new day none the less.  Will not fresh waters be flowing
from the mountain sources, and other waves hurtle against the shores?
It is only the caretaker's dog who prowls unhappily among the graves,
wondering dimly at all this to-do.  The caretaker himself wipes the
clay from his weeding fork and sets to work again, whistling.

There was a self-satisfaction in the clatter of the horses' hoofs as
the cabs made their way from the cemetery, an indication that having
achieved their part of the day's burden satisfactorily, it was left to
the humans they were carrying away to dismiss them as soon as decorum
permitted.  The drizzle persisted still.  The tram-lines glistened
evilly mottled among the bricks.  With fitful abstraction Philip looked
through the window into the drab day.  The continuity of houses had not
yet begun.  Here and there stood a public house at a corner, or two or
three houses thrown up in apologetic haste.  The cabs overtook a man
and a woman walking citywards in the same direction; it seemed that
when the hearse came abreast of the man, a natural impulse made him
remove his hat.  The man stood gaping as the first cab approached, the
woman staring curiously.  Then suddenly she seized him by the shoulder
and pointed a correcting finger towards the procession.  She shouted
something into his ears--the actual words were drowned in the rattle of
wheels.  The man gaped more foolishly, and at once, deliberately,
replaced his hat.  As the man and woman passed from Philip's sight,
they were grinning significantly into each other's faces.  The lad
wondered what it meant.  Quickly he was informed.  The procession was
now riding abreast of a piece of waste ground, sloping greasily up from
the roadside level.  Against the sky-line, faintly muffled by the
intervening rain, Philip saw three or four youths standing,
long-legged.  He perceived that as soon as they became conscious of the
funeral procession their lank immobility had stiffened, and that at
once they proceeded to make derisive gestures with their arms and
hands.  When at last he realized the significance of their gestures he
felt as though each had plunged a rusty knife into him.  It was the
movement he remembered on the part of a band of youths who two or three
years ago had assembled outside the _Polisher Shool_ to mock the old
Jews entering on their _Yom Kippur_ supplications.  It was the movement
which had sometimes greeted him in the meaner Gentile parts of
Doomington, to an accompaniment of "smoggy van Jew!"  Once Higson
Junior had stood at the top of the stairs ...

The rain was not too opaque to obscure their lips shaping, nor so dense
that he could not hear the scornful implacable words--"Smogs!  Look at
the smoggy van Jews!"

"God!" he shouted, suddenly starting to his feet.  The others calmed
him, bade him sit down; to them it seemed a spasmodic outburst of his
grief.  They had not noticed the gesticulating youths on the clay
slope.  Or perhaps the youths had not escaped their notice, but having
passed this way before, the edge of the experience had been blunted for
them by familiarity.

Philip as suddenly subsided, but the blood surged through him, wave
after wave, in fierce anger.  This, then, was the gentleness of Christ!
These the countrymen of Shelley!  For these Socialism schemed and
poured its hot blood!  Oh, God!  The skunks!  What would it matter if
himself they stripped and threw stones at him, sent him bleeding home?
Or if they filled with mud the mouths and nostrils of these old men
about him?  But they had desecrated Death itself, the dolorous quiet
majesty of Death!  They had desecrated her, the sleeping woman with the
folded hands, the lips that should utter no more her sweet calm words,
her eyes, sealed under disks of clay, that had been innocent as dawn!

He squirmed in his corner of the cab.  They had desecrated her sleep,
these minions of Christ!  It seemed at that moment that no life
henceforward lay before him excepting the shattering from His throne of
the thorn-crowned Hypocrite, in whose service those long-legged
blackguards jeered at Death.  This mood passed quickly.  A memory came
to him of a picture he had seen somewhere, the eyes of Christ lifted in
anguish, the heavy blood thickening about the wounds.  But he felt that
a bitter brew had been forced down his throat.  A taste of crude salt
lay in the hollow of his tongue.

The cab arrived at Angel Street.  Dorah and Channah sat waiting in the
kitchen on low stools, and low stools (on which alone the bereaved of a
Jewish family may sit during the shiveh, the seven days' mourning) were
set for Reb Monash and Philip.  The neighbours had prepared some food,
but Philip could not eat.  Each mouthful became impregnated with the
evil liquid flowing round his tongue.  He was conscious of nothing but
intense irritation and dared not trust himself to utter a word.  He
winced when a door opened, squeaking, and brutally he kicked the cat as
it meowed into his face.  When Channah put her hand on his forehead, he
threw it off with a suppressed scream.  He was annoyed that the women
let the food lie about so long, and when they removed it, he was
annoyed that they removed it so clumsily.  A ring of hot metal seemed
to lie behind each eye.  He shut his eyes, but only set the rings
rolling on their axes and throwing off sparks.

A sing-song monologue was drumming into his ears.  One or two of Reb
Monash's friends had come in and his father was narrating the virtues
of the dead woman.

"Oi, such a wife!" he was moaning, "A Yiddish soul and good as gold!
Nothing which it is right for a Yiddish woman to do, she did not do!
No _mitzvah_ was too hard for her!  And on Friday night what a table it
was!  Not a speck on the tablecloth and the candles shining like the
heavens!  _Oi_, my buried Chayah!  Where shall I find me such another
one?  Where, where?  And on _yom tovvim_....!"

The teeth of Philip's bitterness fastened close on this harangue.  This
was the first moment since his return from Wenton that he had become
conscious of Reb Monash as a separate and complete entity.  He had been
irrelevant hitherto.  Only his mother, living or dead, had occupied the
full circle of his vision.  There had been room for no one, nothing but
her.  The incident on the return from the cemetery had made a hole in
the walls of his isolation, an acid had come trickling into him,
corroding him.  What did the old man mean by this futility?  What
interest was all this to the nodding old fools on the sofa?  Indeed,
what interest were her virtues to the man himself, eulogizing her from
the low stool, in the same chant he had heard often in the bygone
years, rising fitfully from the room where the living woman lay
sleepless and frightened in her bed?

"And what think you she would do?  She would borrow money on her
bracelets to lend to Yashka, the fisher's wife!  And when a woman gave
birth she would forget she was ill herself: she'd go out through the
rain to make her some dainty and clean her floor!  What a house she
kept for me....!"

It was intolerable!  Would he never finish?  Whither was he leading?
Faster and faster revolved the wheels behind his eyes.  He dug his
nails into his hands and the voice proceeded evenly.  He had stopped.
No, it was to draw breath!  He was proceeding again.  This man his
father?  Oh, a stranger surely!  They had lost sympathy enough, God
knows, these years.  But the man incanting now so monotonously, who was
he, what was he doing here?

Philip found his own lips in motion.  Reb Monash was silent and turned
his head towards his son.

"You've found it all out now, have you?" he said.  The voice was raw
and dry, a voice he had never uttered nor heard before.  Was it himself
had asked that question, and himself who asked again with words that
stabbed the tranced silence in which the room lay frozen--

"So you've found it out now that you've killed her?"

A blight seemed to fall on the lips of Reb Monash.  They turned sick
and grey.  The colour spread along his cheeks.  His eyes grew wider and
dark and very sorrowful.  Neither he nor his son seemed aware that
Dorah had advanced to the boy, her teeth showing large between her
lips, that she lifted her hand to strike him, but the hand had failed
suddenly, and she had sunk on a stool, sobbing.  The eyes of Reb Monash
still rested full on his son's, but his chin drooped lower on his
breast.  When he spoke, his voice echoed the raw dry tones that had
left Philip's mouth.

"God knows, Feivele!" he said.  "Perhaps thou hast right!"

His head shook unsteadily for some moments, then fell forward and
downward like a lead weight.

"He's fainted!" shrieked Dorah.

"He's fainted!" Channah echoed.  Dorah turned fiercely on Philip.  Her
fingers clawed the air.

"What have I done?" Philip said.  "What was I saying?"

They flung the door open.  Some one fumbled at the window frantically
for a minute or two, then realized that the window could not open.
With quick sobs of alarm Channah threw water into Reb Monash's face,
while Dorah held his head to the air.

Reb Monash opened his eyes.  "Where's Feivele?" he asked faintly.

"Here!" the boy whispered.

"Feivele!" said his father.  "Feivele, let it be over!  It has lasted
too long!"

"Father, what meanest thou?  I knew not what I was saying...."

"No, that is finished; it is said!  The fighting, let it be over!  Go
thine own way!  If thou wilt come mine, some day far off, God be
praised!  But the fighting, let it be over!  I am tired!"

The boy stared into his father's face.  Memory after memory floated
like vapours darkly over the seas of the past, interposed themselves
between that sallow face and his eyes.  Then he saw the eyelids fail
wearily.  The memories drew away along the wide levels.

He knew what issue had been declared.  They had suffered much and
waited long, his father and he.  To Death had fallen the decision of
their conflict.

"Father, let it be over!"


The tension was only broken that night.  Harry Sewelson came in and
after a speechless, eloquent handshake, informed Philip that he had
been away all yesterday and had learned of the death only a couple of
hours ago.  He had heard women discussing it over the counter in his
father's shop.  Alec and his family had left the town unexpectedly a
few days ago or Alec would have come in too....

People kept on crowding into the kitchen till the room was unbearably
stuffy.  Harry had relapsed into reverent silence in a corner.  Philip
was certain he would choke unless he went to the front door to breathe.
He passed along the lobby and opened the door.  At that moment old
Serra Golda, who had just climbed the stairs, was about to knock, and
even as her hand rose to the knocker, the door swung noiselessly
inward.  Her little puckered eighty-year-old face, caught faintly by
the gleam of a street lamp, was distraught with fright.  She uttered a
slight screech of horror.  Her beady eyes stared from her head in a
manner intolerably ridiculous.  A demon of laughter seized Philip
overwhelmingly and a great raucous peal bellowed from his lips.  He
swayed impotently, hands waving in the air, each mouthful of laughter
louder and more hideous than the last.  The old lady bustled by him,
muttering indignantly, "Thou loafer! such a year upon thee!"

The words only emphasized the insanity of his mirth.  He managed to
close the door and then stood in the darkness of the lobby, beating his
head on the wall in his transports.  He felt his ribs cracking in the
onslaught of laughter, and clasped his hands tight round his body.

He found Harry standing beside him.

"Good God!  Philip!" he exclaimed.  "It isn't seemly!  How can you do
it!"

For long Philip could shape no word.  The tears streamed from his eyes.
At last, with infinite difficulty, he brought out:

"Oh, hell, Harry, don't you understand?  Don't you see ... see how
I'm..."

But the words were drowned in a fresh and prolonged peal.  Harry walked
away from him impatiently.

It was fortunate that _meyeriv_, the evening service, had been rendered
and the _kaddish_ intoned.  Philip now realized clearly that the
laughter was entirely out of his control and that it would be fatal to
re-enter the kitchen.  Although the main attack had subsided, bubbles
of laughter still boiled in his throat and issued from his lips in
ragged shrieks.  Utterly prostrated, he determined that the only thing
he could do was to go to bed at once, and he fell asleep with his own
laughter ringing lamentably in his ears.



CHAPTER XV

Three times daily for the following seven days, a little community,
necessarily never less than ten adults, and frequently intersprinkled
with a few of those more pious _chayder_ boys who wished specially to
commend themselves to their _rebbie_, gathered for _davenning_ in the
Angel Street kitchen; the visitors on sofa and chairs, Reb Monash and
Philip on low stools; the mourners uttering their _kaddish_, the
visitors chiming amen with devout promptitude.

_Davenning_, perhaps by some deliberate charitable intention, seemed to
take up most of the day, and effectively chequered Philip's moods of
stagnant melancholy with the need for definite action and a brave show
in the eyes of the world.  Benjamin, Dorah's husband, a meek,
pale-haired man, whose will had always been a useful and docile
implement in the hands of his wife, attended the _minyon_ with complete
regularity, a praiseworthy fact in virtue of the commercial travelling
which took him into far outlying villages.  Dorah herself returned to
Longton, leaving Philip in Angel Street for the period of the _shiveh_.

After the first week the family was permitted to resume ordinary
chairs, but for a whole month the unshaved cheeks of Philip Massel
testified biblically to his loss.  Yet _kaddish_ was not at end.  Three
times a day for the ensuing eleven months the prayer was to be uttered
in one synagogue or another.  And year after year thereafter candles
were to be lit on the eve of the anniversary of the death and _kaddish_
three times uttered next day.

For the Jewish mind the prayer is invested with extreme sanctity.  The
birth of a son conveys to his father and mother immediately the glad
tidings of "Thank God! a _kaddish_ for our souls!"  In a precisely
similar manner to the purchase of a mass and for precisely similar
reasons, a _kaddish_, by a childless man and woman, will be bought for
money.  There are, indeed, old men who shuffle about the dark spaces of
a synagogue, whose main livelihood is the recital, at a stated rate, of
the prayer.  But, it is needless to insist, the commercial commodity is
held to possess by no means the same efficacy as the consanguineous
_kaddish_.  Dereliction of duty in this matter is held to be a flagrant
betrayal of the dead.  The image is held before the culprit's eye of
the body attempting to shake free from its bondage of worms and mud,
and for lack of intercession before the throne of God, enchained
cruelly within the narrow territory of the coffin.

The state in which Philip had endured the climax of his mother's
illness, her death and funeral, had involved, it has been evident, less
a storm of suffering than a trance, a deadly level of hysteria.  When
he returned from Angel Street to Longton, he seemed to lose his faculty
for quick reaction, for poignant contrition or grief.  His mind
reduplicated the sooty autumn which spread like a web about the city,
entrapping the last evidences of summer and leaving them to hang
bedraggled like sucked flies.

Whether or no, for one who had at least made such pretensions of
affection towards his dead mother, he ought, from the point of view of
an abstract decency, to have persisted with the prayer to which she
herself had attached such importance, it is not easy to decide.  It is
possible that had he recited the _kaddish_ in a language he understood,
he would have persisted even to the end.  On the other hand, it is
possible that had he been faced with the task of reiterating for so
long the same fixed number and sequence of words with their inelastic
content of meaning, he would have defected even sooner: that, in fact,
the mere unintelligibility of the prayer conferred upon it for a season
the quality of the kabbalistic.  But the essential fact is this, that
the emotional part of him now flowed like a sluggish backwater, and in
his emotion alone the ritual could have been steeped until it shone
with beauty and urgency.

Only his mind moved with any clarity, and his mind had long ago decided
that phylacteries belonged to Babylon, that all the terror of the Day
of Atonement was an immense, an almost conquering hypnotism, from which
with travail he had escaped.  _Kaddish_ was but an issue of the same
quality as these, though more painful in its solution; for those others
were related merely to the general problem presented to him by his
race, whilst this was bound up so immediately with the lovely thing he
had lost.

His first absence from the morning service at the little _shool_ in
Longton (his absences from the afternoon and evening services were not
ostentatious and were therefore not commented on) produced a series of
violent outbursts from Dorah, culminating in a threat that she would no
longer allow him to pass her doors.  When he informed her that he had
had other struggles to determine and others still faced him, that he
was too tired arguing the matter of _kaddish_ with himself for any
argument with her, that, in short, he would go, as she threatened, and
become an errand boy or a clerk, her anger relaxed.  It was certain he
was very worn out, and if he actually left the bosom of his family, his
last tie with Judaism would be snapped, and--who knew? he might, God
forbid, even marry a Gentile, a _goyah_!  What a scandal it would be!
Benjamin would lose his Jewish clientele, it would shake Reb Monash's
_chayder_ to its foundations, and what would be thought of a _maggid_
whose son ... No, the matter was too terrible to think of!  They must
be patient, perhaps God would be kind even yet!  Yet it was hard, very
hard to bear!  Not for all her resolutions could she stifle periodic
outbursts of wrath.  Philip would rise from the table with shut lips
and retire to his room and his books.

Poetry had begun to lose its savour for him.  Poetry tinkled.  He
discovered a volume of the _Poems and Ballads_.  It mystified and
annoyed him.  He was in no mood for the sheer unrelated beauty of
Keats, and Tennyson seemed fit only to read on a bench among the tulip
beds of Longton Park.  His feet held him too heavily to the ground to
allow, with Shelley, any excursion into the empyrean.  As yet it was an
atmosphere too rare for him to breathe again; there was too much of the
graveyard damp in his lungs.  The equilibristic clap-trap of "Ulalume"
and "The Raven" filled him at first with indignation and then with mere
mirth.

The routine of school made as yet hardly any break in the even tenour
of his mind.  Mr. Furness uttered a few words of sympathy, so quiet and
unobtrusive that without scraping the wound they gave to Philip a sense
of ease and understanding more than all the rhymed consolations of the
poets.  With Browning he had more success, and though the robust
exuberance of the poet was out of harmony with Philip's prevailing
mood, here at least was stuff of the earth earthy, sound stuff for his
jaws to tackle with pertinacity.  But the discovery he made which
nearest met his mood was the discovery of prose.  With fiction, of
course, he had always been familiar.  But this was no more prose in a
strict sense than Pope was poetry.  Each existed for a purpose beyond
its medium, Dickens for his tale and Pope for his precept.  But when he
casually picked up at a handcart in the Swinford market a copy of the
_Religio Medici_, chiefly for a melancholy delight in its mere odour of
antique must, and thus casually stumbled on a music which had more than
the subtlety of verse, and none of its arbitrary divisions, he was
carried away upon an untravelled sea.  The "Urn Burial" he chanted
night after night.  The _History_ of Clarendon and the _Compleat
Angler_ were a similar experience, the mere narrative of the first and
the piscatorial erudition of the other affecting him as not truly
relevant to the prose in which they were written, being merely moulds
to give their music one shape instead of another shape.  He moved
lazily towards the more troubled seas of Swift and was suddenly tossing
helplessly in those furious waters; until release allowed him to seek
amiable harbourage with Dick Steele and, disregarding lordlily an
intervening century, in the pleasant coves of Lamb.

It was not that the agony of those summer days, the telegram at Wenton,
the cemetery, the words he had uttered in Angel Street and their
consequence, were submerged quickly or in the least.  For long, periods
of listless vacuity clogged Philip's feet and mind.  He would sit
musing for hours over an unfinished meal or stand in prolonged and
joyless reverie before a hardware shop.  The slow blood in his veins
called for no action.  No dream of sky or hills was potent enough to
prick his limbs with desire to be moving beyond the bounds of the city
and along the climbing roads.  So for a time these voyages with the
learned and dead doctors of prose were the only adventures of his soul.

Almost with the first quickening of spring, something of the old unease
twitched his body.  He realized that his friend Alec, from whom no word
had come to him, had not once entered his mind; that even Harry, upon
whom he had stumbled several times, had in no wise concerned him.  He
had seen him once or twice with a lady.  Details of her had not
impressed themselves upon him.  He knew only that she seemed ten or
twenty years older than his friend, and a plain woman; distinctly, a
plain woman.  He determined to call for Harry and suggest a tram ride
into the country.

"I'm sorry," Harry had said awkwardly.  "I'm afraid I can't!  I'm quite
fixed up.  I never have time to go with any one else."

"I beg your pardon," said Philip huffily, "really I shouldn't like to
intrude!  It just occurred to me that we used to have something to do
with one another not so very long ago.  I think I'd best not keep you
any longer now."

"Philip, try and be a sport, if you can!" Harry entreated.  "My time's
not my own.  You're not old enough yet, so you can't possibly
understand!  No offence meant!"

"What's the good of crowing about--what's your haughty age--nearly
eighteen?  It's a privilege bought by mere waiting!"

"Of course I could trust you to misunderstand.  The fact is there's
every chance of my getting--for God's sake don't tell a word to any
one--", he dropped his voice and looked carefully round, "of my getting
married!"

"Good God, man, you're a baby!  Don't be a fool!"

"Oh, don't try that game on me!  I'm old enough for marrying, if I'm
old enough to be a father.  Don't look so startled!  I don't mean to
say that I am.  That's the trouble!  Yes, it was a pretty sound
instinct that prevented me from going round to see you, even when they
kept her in after hours!  I see the sort of sympathy I could have
expected!"

"But who on earth is it?"

"Didn't we see you somewhere or other about ten days ago when we were
together?"

"Do you mean that----?"

"Yes, that's Miss Walpole!" he said austerely.  "The trouble is that we
can't really decide if I am the father actually or not!" he went on in
a sudden burst of confidence.  "But the baby's due before long and
there's only one thing left for a decent chap to do.  That's apart
entirely from the fact that the girl means everything to me now!" he
said with assumed airiness.

"Don't be so bloody, Harry!" Philip burst out.  A clearer vision of the
lady presented itself to him than when she passed before him in the
flesh.  "She's a hag of eighty!"

The face of the infatuated youth turned white with wrath.  "I think the
sooner you take your filthy face through that door the better!  You and
your blasted impertinence!"

Dignity demanded a frigid and immediate withdrawal.

"I'll be damned!" Philip murmured, "a chap with a mind like Harry's!
Lord, it was as hard as a knife!  Poor old devil, I suppose he'll wake
up in a month and find himself up to the neck!  Who's left?  That's
what I want to know!  All the old landmarks are washed away.  What the
hell is a chap to do?  Who's left?"  The question drummed insistently
into his ears.  He found himself aching for friendship.  For the last
few months he had hardly uttered a word excepting a request for the
sugar, perhaps, and a reply to a question at school.  His general
friendlessness filled him with humiliation.  The Walton Street phase
had drawn to its dull end long ago and not a figure remained who
offered the least hope of companionship.  Alec, like the callous swine
he had always felt Alec fundamentally to be, had merely
disappeared--bearing with him the telescope of high romance, as might
have been expected.  On Harry the gods had inflicted a terrible
cerebral affliction.  Philip remembered Harry's attendant lady and
shuddered.  And Harry had been sweet on Edie once!  Oh, yes, Edie!
What was it he had heard Dorah and Benjamin saying about Edie?  He
remembered.  Her photograph had been seen by a "millionaire" in the
house of a relative of Edie in Pittsburg, U.S.A.  The "millionaire,"
promptly enamoured, had entered into negotiations with the authorities
in Doomington, the negotiations were succeeded by a trunk of the most
astounding dresses and a first-class ticket to Pittsburg.  So much for
Edie!  In any case she had worn thin ages ago.  Then it was that Mamie
returned to his mind.

His first thought was "Damn that girl!  I thought I'd forgotten her!"
She filled him with a vivid sense of guilt.  "I've had enough!" he
vowed.  His mind returned to the episode of the signature, and to
escape his contrition, he fled from the house and walked swiftly down
Blenheim Road.  To his horror he discovered that every step he took was
actually a step nearer the enchantress.  To his horror he was forced to
recognize that the thought of her made him tingle with pleasure.  The
recollection of her began to torture him.  It was a double infliction,
sensations of guilt and promptings of delight struggling for mastery.
When his mind returned to his mother, his despair was more abandoned
than it had been since the summer.  Yet ever when his gloom was most
profound, the girl re-entered his thoughts, whistling as she turned the
corner of the barn, brushing his cheeks with her hair.

"By God!" he exclaimed.  "I lent her that prose translation of Dante!"
(He remembered that she had asked who had wrote Dante, and that she had
thought it so _delincate_ of him to lend her so sweet a book.  And when
she'd just finished the Pansy Bright-eye Library she was reading, she'd
_love_ to learn all about this here Dante.  She was sure he'd be _that_
interesting!)

Which lack of culture had then rather accentuated than diminished her
charm, a quaint sort of sophisticated naïveté.  "Of course, I've got to
get my book back!  I'll call for it to-morrow night!"

He knocked firmly at the door of the Mamie household.  A miniature
version of Mamie appeared.  He asked if Philip Massel could see Miss
Mamie....  The child disappeared into the sitting-room half-way along
the passage.  A whispering which seemed to last many minutes followed.
Then the child reappeared and ushered him into the room.  The glare of
an admirable incandescent mantle blinded him for a moment.  There were
three or four people in the room but immediately he only recognized
Mrs. Hannetstein.  A familiar voice addressed him.

"Oh, good evening, Mr.--er--Massel, so glad you've called!"

He turned to the source of the voice.  Good heavens, was that Mamie?
Hell, she'd got her hair up!  You couldn't quite compare her to Harry's
discovery, but she was years older than she had seemed!  He was aware
she had called him Mr. Massel.  He would have to follow suit.  Perhaps
it was mere intrigue.  He held out his arm waveringly.  "Good evening,
Miss..."  He found, to his despair, he had entirely forgotten her
surname.  "I mean, Miss..."  He coughed unhappily.  But Mamie, so far
from assisting him in his embarrassment, was unaware of it.

"Mother, this is Mr. Massel!  We met, where was it?  Oh, of course, in
Wenton.  Do you remember this gentleman, auntie?  He helped me to
escape from some cows, didn't you?"

"Yes," he managed to stammer, "and they were ravenous as wolves!  I was
awfully brave!"

Everybody laughed politely.

"I was just going to practise my latest song, 'Red Hearts, Red Roses.'
_Do_ sit down, won't you?" Mamie pressed.

"Thank you!"

"So glad you've come, but you don't mind my practising this song before
my accompanist comes, Mr. Mendel, you know, the famous violinist!"

"Ah, Mamie, ah!" exclaimed her aunt waggishly, shaking the first finger
of her left hand in humorous admonition.

"Don't be silly, auntie!" Mamie cried with a skittishness almost
elderly.  She sat down at the piano, and struck a few chords.  Then Red
Hearts bled, Red Roses drooped for some minutes.

Philip sat stiffly on his chair, wondering at the precise reason that
had brought him here.  He wished she hadn't put her hair up.  He
wondered dimly if he was in love with her.  If he was, he supposed he
ought to keep his eyes glued on her face in a peculiarly tense way.
But it was distracting to see her lips moving in that active
manner--like red mice, twisting!

"Oh, by the way," said Mamie at the conclusion of her song.  "I was
sorry to hear of your loss.  Mrs. Kraft told me.  It must have been
awfully unpleasant!"

"It was rather rotten!" Philip muttered with difficulty.

What a peculiarly unreal air the girl gave to sorrow and death.
Inexplicable creature!  Was this politely tittering oldish young lady
the girl whose lips had sought his own like a bee?  What was the matter
with him now, or what had been wrong then?  His own pose on the chair,
the piano, everything was strained, a little false.  But over in
Wheatley, the cemetery, the grave, there was no unreality!  Damp clay
and the sprawling weeds!  No, he must wrench his mind away from
Wheatley, or he'd never be able to peel the apple that was lying in a
plate on his knees.

"To be sure," said Mrs. Hannetstein comfortably, "Death comes to us all
sooner or later!  Don't you think so, Mr. Massel?"

There seemed no reason to repudiate the assertion.

Conversation trickled in a thin stream.  Philip was conscious of a
certain slight unease in the air.  Wasn't it about time he was going?
It certainly was time he set about doing what he came to do.  Then what
on earth was it he had come for?

There was a loud knock at the door.  "That'll be Adolf!" declared
Mamie, rising from the piano stool with a glad yelp.  "Run to the door,
Esther!"

A masterly tread was heard along the lobby.

"There you are, darling!" said Mamie, as a tall fair gentleman opened
the door, and stared possessively into the room.  "Won't you put your
violin down first?"

He put his violin down in a corner with deliberation and as
deliberately caught Mamie in his arms.  That ceremony over, he sat down
and blinked inquiringly towards Philip.

"Adolf, dear, this is a young gentleman who was staying in Wenton when
I was there!" said Mamie, with vague discomfort.

"Very glad to meet him, to be sure!" said Adolf.

"Mr. Massel, this is Adolf Mendel, the violinist!  My fiancé," she
added with a note of deferential pride.

Her fiancé ... then she'd ... her _fiancé_...!

The blustering, big-boned lout, what the devil did he mean by taking
everything for granted in this gruff cocksure way!  Had he ever sat
with her in the angle of a barn and a haystack, kissing like hell!  Had
her eyelashes ever ... and her lips...

And she there, the vampire, what did she mean by it!  Oh, blast her and
the whole empty-headed crowd of them with their Red Roses and squeaky
violins!

Anyhow, thank God, it was over!  She'd pricked the bubble of his
insufferably stupid illusion!  In her degree and kind she'd gone the
way of all the rest--Edie, Alec, Harry!  What an idiotic room it was,
with its refined knick-knacks on the mantelpiece and that creature with
her hair up and the red-plush-framed photograph of Blackpool on the
piano!  They were discussing music and songs with a wealth of
ostentatious esoteric detail.  That was obvious enough surely.  They
wanted him to clear.  He rose to go.  Mamie perceived it with alacrity
from the corner of her eye.

"Oh, I'm so sorry you've got to go!" she said effusively.  "And I'm
awfully sorry about that too, you know!  You will come round again?
Shan't he, Adolf, you'd love to see Mr. Massel again!  Not at all, not
at all; oh, good night!"

On the other side of the door he remembered his translation of Dante.

"Blast Dante!" he exclaimed through his teeth.

It was the fit of profound misogyny which followed this entirely
unsatisfactory incident that fitted him so completely for the
effusiveness and glitter of Wilfrid Strauss, and for that interlude
with Kate which, only too conventional in its mere detail, was
nevertheless at once the end and the beginning of Philip Massel's
boyhood.



CHAPTER XVI

A certain hesitancy checks me upon the appearance of Wilfrid Strauss in
this narration; even though I am aware how easy and profitable it is to
philosophize upon the _deus ex machina_; how it is entertaining to
demonstrate that from the flimsiest accidentals the most stalwart
essentials depend.  Yet the Wilfrid Strauss phase in Philip's
development is not so much to be considered a stalwart essential as an
exact statement of accounts, a period, a signpost whose backward arm
pointed to obscure chaos, whose forward arm pointed at least to clearer
issues, more breadth, more light.  It is probable that one Strauss and
another had from time to time come into some sort of contact with
Philip, for in such communities as Whitechapel, Brownlow Hill and
Doomington, from the turbid mass of Jewish tailordom a type perpetually
emerges which is volatile, swift, scornful of the mere labour of hands,
ostentatious of the agile intellectual qualities which make the type
invaluable for undertakings rarely entirely scrupulous.  If previously,
then, Philip had encountered a Strauss in embryo or in maturity, there
was no point at which their respective strengths and weaknesses had
met.  Yet, in point of fact, it is Eulalie et Cie., Paris, of undefined
occupations, who have kept this particular and actual Mr. Wilfrid
Strauss too busily engaged, on the Rue de Rivoli and in Leicester
Square, for his appearance before this date in the lesser thoroughfares
of Doomington.  And it is not possible to declare that Strauss, as he
swaggered gently down Transfer Street from the Inland Station, would
have met Philip Massel on any other afternoon than the May afternoon in
the year of Philip's history I have now attained.

Philip had hoped, earnestly enough, as his old associations faded more
and more completely out of his life, to pass beyond the fog of
strangeness which shrouded from him the heart and meaning of Doomington
School.  But he was forced to realize that volition was by no means
adequate to achieve this purpose; for the paradoxical truth was borne
in upon him, that, as he stood, he was somehow absurdly too young and
inconceivably too old to take his place simply among the rest.  The
problem was to be resolved only by deliberate action, and action was
wholly beyond his reach.  He could drift sombrely with the tide of his
own ineffectual melancholy, but the lassitude that softened his limbs
prevented him from striking out against the current.

He fell into the habit, therefore, of following for long hours the
similar roads of Doomington, the amorphous monster which had always
stretched so vaguely, so inscrutably, beyond his own steely horizons.
In one direction you reached the museum where the mummies were embalmed
in such fatuous splendour; southward lay the University galleries where
the skeleton of some immense, extinct beast swung terrifyingly from the
roof.  Northward the road led far and far away to a place where
suddenly three chimneys sprang like giants against the throat of the
sky.  Or in the centre of the city, at the extremes of the bibliophilic
world, were the handcarts whose books concerned themselves mainly with
the salvation of your soul, and the plate-glass-windowed shops of
Messrs. Dobrett and Lees and Messrs. Hornel, whose books were
recommended as admirable companions for your motor tours under the
Pyrenees and your yachting cruises in the Mediterranean.

It was a lifeless youth, sick at heart, prematurely flotsam, he
mourned, on the indifferent waters of life, who passed one afternoon
under the shadow of the Stock Exchange, along Transfer Street and in
the direction of Consort Square, where his defunct Highness stood
isolated and unhappy among the conflicting currents of tramcars.  But
Philip saw nothing, heard nothing clearly, and paused not even a moment
before the innumerable display of the latest Rhodesian novel behind the
windows of Messrs. Dobrett and Lees' shop.  A book swung vacantly
between finger and thumb as he walked vacantly along.  And he was so
startled when a distinguished young stranger stopped him to ask a
question that the book slipped to the ground.  Not so much the sudden
vision of what Philip conceived to be the most immaculate of grey
tweeds as the easy refinement of the young gentleman's voice took him
aback.  Philip flushed and bent down towards the book.

"Oh, allow me, allow me!" said the stranger.  "It was entirely my
fault!"  He stooped gallantly, lifted the book, and with a mauve silk
handkerchief flicked, off the Doomington dust.

"Thank you!" said Philip.  "No, really, it was my fault!  I forgot I
was holding it!"

The other made a courtly gesture of remonstrance.  "This is the way,
isn't it," he repeated, "to Blenheim Road?"

Philip considered a moment.  "It's rather complicated if you've not
been there before.  You see, you've first got to turn to the left.  And
then, let me see ... Or you might take the car ... But look here, I'm
not doing anything special just now.  If you'd like, I could..."

There was something attractively full-blooded about the stranger,
though it was true that the gloss--there seemed hardly another
word--the almost boot-polish perfection of his appearance, was a little
overwhelming.  It would be easy enough to put him on the Brownel Gap
car which would lead him to the top end of Blenheim Road.  Yet Philip
felt somehow reluctant to disattach himself so promptly from the
stranger, to allow him merely to merge into the tumult and mist.

"If I dared to encroach..." hesitated the polite young man.  It was, of
course, an unworthy sentiment, particularly in a Communistic bosom ...
and yet one could not help feeling that to be seen talking to a
stranger of this calibre was rather a distinction.  All the people he
had rubbed shoulders with to-day, what dull faces they had, threadbare
suits, dry lips mouthing "Cotton, cotton, cotton!" even to themselves!
This young man was wearing the most smartly tailored of grey tweed
suits, shoes of metropolitan brilliance, a velours hat whose ample
brims shadowed, expensively, quick green eyes, a slightly squat nose,
and lips attuned, as one might judge from a slight thickness and their
broad curves, to Bacchic riot and to kissing, even, it might well be,
to the more recondite pleasures of the flesh.  The last thought checked
Philip.  Yes, there was something full-blooded to the verge of
coarseness in that mouth!  Wasn't all this talk about taxis and one's
own little two-seater, a hell of a scooter, you know, just a little too
ostentatious?  After all, a gentleman in the complete sense of the word
could deduce from one's clothes, for instance...

The stranger interrupted himself suddenly, then stared at Philip with
some intentness.  Then he lifted his forefinger to his nose and asked
"_Zog mir, bist a Yid_?  Tell me, thou art a Jew?"

Not merely the intonation of the voice had changed, so that the cadence
of Leicester Square had subtly become the chant of the _Yeshiveh_, but
its very timbre was different, thicker, more ingenuous, infinitely more
homely.

"_Ich bin!_" replied Philip, perhaps a little stiffly.

"So you're one of us then, eh? well, all's well!  I want you to help
me, kid!"

A note of _bonhommie_ had entered the voice.  "You say you can come
along this way, can you?  Good!  Do you mind?  I'm going to take you
into my confidence, if you'll let me!"

Philip blinked.  He felt a momentary difficulty in his breathing, as if
he had been running.  A little sudden, one might think....

"What do you say to just getting in here for a moment till we see where
we are?"  They withdrew into the doorway of a block of offices.  "The
fact is, I've got a job which is going to keep me in and about
Doomington for a few months and I don't know a soul in the place.  To
tell the truth, I've managed to avoid Doomington till now....  Now
isn't that a tactful thing to say to a native!  I suppose you _do_
belong to the place, don't you?  But look here, you don't mind me
buttonholing you like this, do you now?  Perfect stranger and that sort
of thing!"

There was no doubt he was a thoroughly engaging young fellow.  And at
this moment Allen of the Sixth passed by, a celebrated swell so far as
school swells went.  Allen looked merely dowdy now, with his somewhat
down-at-heel brown brogues and the silver braid round his prefectorial
cap coming loose at the peak.  Philip was sure that Allen had glanced a
little enviously towards himself and with real respect at the stranger.
But who could resist the dapper waist cunningly conferred upon the
young man by some prince of tailors?

"It's very decent of you indeed!" Philip muttered.  "I appreciate it.
You know if I can be of any help at all, I'll be only too pleased!"

A grin extended the corners of the stranger's mouth.  He almost ogled
Philip as he replaced finger to ever-so-slightly-aquiline nose.

"A charming little speech, charming!  I'm developing my theories about
you, so help me!  A lady's man, that's what you are, a regular lady's
man!  One has met your type, you know, up and down the place!"

Philip was not over pleased by this invariable insistence on the part
of strangers that he was a "lady's man," that he had a "way with him,"
that they had "met your type, you know, up and down the place!"  He
coughed a little awkwardly.  "I hate women!" he declared with vivid
retrospect and pained conviction.

The other laughed a little too loudly.  "And a jolly good joke, ha, ha!
Hate women--gee, what an idea!  But more of the ladies anon!  Let's
just settle the matter in hand!"  He made a motion towards the suit
case at his feet.

"Let me take your bag!" demanded Philip, with tardy politeness.

"Not for a moment!  It's quite light, anyhow.  My real luggage is at
the station and it's as much as I'm worth with Eulalie et Cie.--my
employers, you know, Paris,"--he paused to give the information its
exact importance,--"as much as I'm worth to let this little Johnny out
of my hand, God bless it!  But listen, I've got something to ask you.
Would you first tell me your name?  Pardon?  Massel!  Oh, yes; good
name, solid!  Here's mine!"

He tenderly replaced his bag between his feet and withdrew a card from
an expensive leather case.  "Wilfrid Strauss, _né_ Wolfie, but don't
tell any one!  You can't sell ladies' vanities and
gentlemen's--er--gentlemen's comforts, don't you know, with a name like
Wolfie, can you now?"

Philip slightly demurred.

Strauss lifted eyebrows of fleeting disapproval.  "_Wolfie_, impossible
patronymic!  Tell me now, I want to get into a Jewish boarding house.
You see the Doomington trade is absolutely in Jewish hands and they're
threatening to undercut ... but don't let me talk shop!  How about it?
Blenheim Road is the sort of district, I understand?  I don't generally
associate myself with the Only Race, as you can perhaps appreciate, so
to speak, but you're beginning to see the line of attack, eh?"

Philip pressed his shoulder blades against the wall to re-establish his
sense of reality.  "Quite so, quite so!" he replied weakly.

"You can be of help to me, old man, if you would?  I mean, you know the
local ropes and that's half the game!"

At least here was Strauss adumbrating interests definite, if not
exalted, some sort of _terminus ad quem_.  How nauseatingly void and
vain had life in Doomington become!

Strauss proceeded.  "Another thing!  I've developed a sudden consuming
passion for, what d'you call 'em, _creplach_, absolutely soaked in
_shmaltz_, you know the sort ... and potato _blintsies_ ... and let me
see, there's _mameliggy_, um, yes, _mameliggy_!"

Memories of the curiously-flavoured Roumanian dish as served on special
occasions by Mrs. Sewelson vividly presented themselves.

"Oh, so you're a Roumanian, Mr. ... I mean, Strauss?" Philip juxtaposed.

"No, no, don't misunderstand!  One of my great pals in the old Mincing
Lane days, Rupert Kahn--poor devil, he's doing twelve months now,
somebody told me--was engaged to a _Roumanische nekaveh_ for a time,
till he made off with the engagement rings and her silver combs, and
you couldn't blame him either--calves like the hind legs of an
elephant.--Oh, appalling!  ... But I say, don't you think we'd better
be moving on?" Strauss interrupted himself.  They emerged from the
doorway and Strauss slipped his arm through Philip's as though the dawn
of their acquaintance was already ancient history.

"Where the hell am I wandering off to, Massel, old dear?" Strauss
speculated.  "I'm afraid I'm a trifle light-headed.  It must be that
champagne the Inland Company so beneficently provide, eh?  Half a
bottle of fizz always cuts more of a dash than a whole of Sauterne,
although it's not strictly the thing for lunch, would you say?  Still,
it's worth the difference, every time!  What's your preference?"

"I'm afraid I'm not much of a connoisseur myself!  Palestine's wine's
about as far as I've gone, with occasional whiskey and
_lekkach_"--Strauss looked puzzled--"you know, those curly little
cakes!  It's not been quite my line, somehow!"

"Poor old thing!" mused Strauss.  "You've not moved very far and that's
a fact!  At about your age--I think my calculations are right--I'd
spent three or four week-ends with Marjorie in Brighton ... Oh, curse
the man!  Him and his dirty Doomington manners!"  The youth scowled
uglily.  Somebody, evidently displeased by the expansive manner Strauss
had adopted for his procession down Transfer Street, had thrust a
vicious elbow into the grey tweed waist.  For one horrible moment it
seemed that Strauss was mobilizing his resources for a punitive
expectoration, but the West End reassumed control in time and Strauss
continued:--

"Oh, yes, Brighton, Marjorie, as I was saying!  That girl was a sponge,
nothing more or less!  She'd just open her mouth and pour the stuff
down like rainwater pouring down a spout.  Gee, that's a while ago now!
Still, I don't think--damn those motors!--a show like Transfer Street
is the place for one's confessions, what do you say?  One oughtn't to
let oneself rip like this, but you've got the sort of face one can
trust, Massel, if I may say so.  Somehow I generally manage to land on
my feet when I arrive in a strange town, though I take no credit to
myself for it, mark you!  I remember once, first time I landed in
Bordeaux ... But for God's sake let's go somewhere and have some tea.
Then we can discuss the boarding-house business and the way the wind
blows in Doomington.  How do you feel about it?"

They had arrived some time ago at the point where Transfer Street
crosses the pride of the city, the thoroughfare called Labour Street.
A stream of vehicles passing transversely had held them up, but when at
last the policeman raised a hand in potent arrest, the two youths
crossed and found themselves facing the Crystal Café.

"This looks rather the kind of place!" exclaimed Strauss.  "What's it
like?"

The inside of the gilded eating-houses that threw the glare of their
lamps and the smells of their cooking into Labour Street had hitherto
occupied Philip's attention for a curious moment at most.  His
ignorance seemed now to be a grave lacuna in his education.  "Sorry,
not the vaguest idea!" he protested ruefully.

"Hold, I hear music!  Say, boy, I guess we'll try the dandy li'l place
right now!" declared Strauss, with an artful introduction of the
appropriate accent.  They entered, and the host ordered a delicate meal
with some grandeur.  Philip found the marble-faced walls a little ugly,
but distinctly rich and impressive.  The gentlemen in the orchestra he
found also ugly, also distinctly rich and impressive; particularly the
florid gentleman at the piano, whose moustache wandered so persistently
into his mouth that he gave up the attempt to blow it away and
endeavoured to reconcile himself to the taste.  He was so very
inflated, would the sudden puncture of a pin dismiss him into thin air?
Anyhow the marble seemed solid enough.  Philip surreptitiously passed
his hand along the marble behind him to assure himself.  His head was
in a whirl.  His friendship with the garrulous, glittering youth
(Strauss made dainty play with his fingers to display two quite
admirable rings, and there was a gleam of gold cuff-links from
shirt-sleeves which he seemed deliberately to have pulled down an
excessive inch), his friendship with Strauss had developed at so
kinematic a speed that he was half afraid he could hear himself panting
over the chocolate éclairs.

At least he had breath enough to tender such information as he
possessed concerning Jewish boarding-houses, the people who might be
considered the "swells" of the community, which synagogues would
provide the happiest hunting-grounds for chase not strictly specified,
and a number of kindred affairs.  He discovered that he was usefuller
than he had anticipated.  He said to himself humorously that he was
blossoming into a man of the world.  Much fascinating conversation, or
more strictly, monologue, followed, on matters less professional.  It
was laid down as axiomatic that every young fellow under eighteen,
worth the least grain of his salt, knew what's what--a phrase Philip
had already encountered, but here, obviously, endowed with a more
intimate meaning than hitherto.  When Strauss requested him to choose
between the Turkish and Russian compartments of his cigarette case, he
felt it behoved him to patronize the Turkish, for a recondite technical
reason which at once did high credit to his own imagination and
satisfactorily impressed his friend.  A number of entertaining
adventures were narrated by Strauss, illustrative of the nature of
what's what.  There was Flo in the punt at Richmond.  Oh, of course, a
married woman, she was!  But then her own husband had introduced her
with a wink which meant merely, "Go ahead, Wilfrid, old duck, go
ahead!"  And there was silly old Bobby--insisted on wearing a wedding
ring at Bournemouth, and Jimmy Gluckstein had spread the news that he'd
settled down in decent matrimony.  Did a chap no end of harm, that sort
of thing!  And, 'struth, yes, ha, ha, ha! that ducky little French bit,
Flory!  Her mother, moaning with toothache, had interrupted them at
about two in the morning.  There'd only just been time to slip under
the bed.  And it was March, too, March in Paris!  From two till seven
in the morning, mark you!  Grr-grr! ... From Strauss's enjoyment of the
tale one could not help deducing that he felt, at least after this
lapse of time; that his part in the episode was indisputably the most
enjoyable, even the most dignified....  And oh, yes, talking about
four-posters ... there was Fanny ... you should have heard ... another
cigarette? ... and when her real boy came ... camisole ... about time
we went ... Oh no, no, don't mention it!..."

Yes, of course, Philip would be delighted to accompany Strauss to Mrs.
Levinsky's, in Blenheim Road.  But wait a moment, why not try Mrs.
Lipson's, in Brownel Gap, next door to Halick, the dentist?  It was
quite near to both the Reformed and the Portuguese Synagogues, a useful
base for operations....  And it was at Mrs. Lipson's that Philip saw
Strauss duly installed--after a dalliance in a bar parlour where
Strauss drank a cocktail to fortify himself against the shock of his
resumption into his tribe's bosom, and where Philip, school cap stuffed
mournfully into trousers pocket, could not but accept a port and lemon
for "old time's sake."

"You'll be certain, Philip, to call round for me to-morrow about
twelve!" exhorted Strauss, as Philip at last left him that evening.
"What's that, school?  Oh, bother it, I forgot!  Good old Philip,
sitting at a nice desk doing multiplication sums and putting his hand
up with the answer!"

"Look here!" Philip objected rawly.  Yet it was difficult to shake off
the temptation to believe that from more than one point of view, this,
after all, was a fair epitome of scholastic labour.  "School's all
right!  There's a good deal in it beyond books and things!" he
reflected with some wistfulness.  But the basement
playground-restaurant compared rather dingily, he was uncomfortably
conscious, with the blare and marble of the Crystal Café.

"Well, you're outgrowing it pretty quickly, I can say that for you!
What do you say to coming round to-morrow evening?  You could take me
the round of the district ... and what about a music hall to wind up
with?"

"I can't let you do all this for me!  It wouldn't be playing the game!
I mean we've only met to-day and I don't know anything about the
business side of things, and you see I don't get much money myself.  I
just give lessons to a master-tailor...."

"Don't be absurd, old boy!  I'll expect you to do the same for me, with
interest, when I'm down on my luck!  Not a word more!  Five o'clock,
you think?  Good!  Well, so long, old dear!  Take a Turkish to smoke on
the way home!"

"Er--thanks!  So long!  Till to-morrow!"


At the appointed time next day, at the very door of Mrs. Lipson's
boarding-house, Philip was seized with a sudden vehement impulse to
turn his back upon his new friend, simmering enthusiastically somewhere
beyond those _kosher_ portals.  Where after all was it leading to?  The
most insensitive nostril could not fail to register the faint odour of
corruption which hung about Wilfrid Strauss.  Somehow that impeccable
grey tweed suit was more shoddy than the corduroys of that poor old
devil trundling a wheelbarrow beside the gutter.  Yet whither did all
the other roads lead?  Whatever the landscape on the journey, whatever
pitiful doctrine guided you, where else but to a Wheatley cemetery,
damp clay, a towsled dog barking emptily?  And how was Strauss less
valiant a companion thither than Harry and Alec and the rest?  If he
preferred to chase, not the shadow, but the glittering substance, who
could blame him?  A fine specimen he himself had become!  Hardly a
person in Doomington to talk to; at home the unresponsive books--Swift
and Lamb beginning to gesticulate as little intelligibly as his faded
poets; at school, still the unsealed barriers!  Nothing left but to
moon about the streets, remembering, regretting--hoping never.  What,
indeed, was there to hope for?  The old loyalties were annulled, the
old dreams crumbled!  Heigh-ho, thank God for Wilfrid Strauss and for
noise, Life!  It was a chap's duty to himself to know what Life meant
before Life had done with him, thrown him aside into that long, narrow
dustbin....

He knocked.  The sound came sharp and clear like a challenge against
the tedium which had been stupefying him for so weary a time.

Strauss was delighted, charmed.  He had been troubled by spasmodic
doubts as the afternoon wore on.  Would Massel turn up after all?
There was something in the lad he couldn't quite fathom, something
which might turn Philip away from him in the mysterious manner so many
people he had particularly wished to please had, from time to time,
turned away.  He hoped he'd turn up if only to save him the strenuous
necessity of discovering somebody else likely to show him the ropes
economically.  Besides, there was something distinctly pleasing about
the youth.  If only he'd dress a little better....  Anyhow, he was
going to be useful if merely as a guide--though one couldn't call him
exactly a business man.  He'd more than repay the price of a tea and a
theatre now and again.  And if he'd only allow himself to be initiated
into the business, what confidence he would arouse in the most chary
breast!

There was a value in Philip's friendship Strauss did not recognize so
consciously.  It gave him a peculiar satisfaction to observe the
deference that Philip naively paid to his exhibition of nis vanities; a
satisfaction increased by the knowledge that Philip was a "college
lad."  It was amusing to gibe at "college lads," to be sure, and one
didn't actually desire to be a "college lad," yet one could not help
vulgarly and secretly envying them....  In any case, it's easy enough
to get rid of a chap when he's outlived his use.  Hadn't he already
made that discovery often enough?  Time enough for that ... "Come in,
old man, come in!  Risk a whiskey and soda?"

The tawdry gaieties Strauss had in his command followed in bewildering
succession.  Books seemed to become less and less important as the
furtive weeks passed by.  If a memory of his mother came palely before
him, he would the more speedily betake himself to the company of
Wilfrid Strauss.  It was difficult to retain those old musics of
Shelley when the brass bellowed windily across the Regent
Roller-Skating Rink, and the girls cackled in your ear.  No long time
elapsed before Strauss had made the rounds of the less reputable cafés,
the more shady music halls, and, finally, the Doomington Zoological
Gardens, with their alfresco dancing at the borders of the lake.  The
delights of the gardens were only vitiated for Philip by the inexorable
custom which demanded that each male should at rigid intervals kiss his
paramour--"strag" was the recognized term--in the ludicrously
inadequate shelter of a laurel shrub.

There followed more than these.  There followed Kate and her lazy eyes
and the yelp of her animal laughter.

"Deeper, deeper, deeper!" became the insistent burden in Philip's
brain.  Closer round his feet the mud was gathering.  Yet against this
one thing he long managed to stand out, though Strauss would return to
him, rubbing his eyes sleepily, or smacking his lips with luxurious
appreciation.  Delicately Strauss would suggest how illogical his
position was, how, seeing it was necessary to take the plunge sooner or
later, why not now, old sport?

Why not?  More and more cynical his solitary mind was becoming, ever
the more solitary as Strauss and he were more closely entangled in the
cult of their pleasures.  What else did women mean?  They would die, he
would die, securely enough all of them, whatsoever happened in the
interspace.  Alec's old philosophy was gaining new confirmation.  What
inhibitions did Life hold by which a youth should not probe for the
honey of experience, each flower, chaste or poisonous, that opened to
the sun or moon?


"Feivele!" ventured Reb Monash to him one _shabbos_ morning, "Tell me,
what is this lord's son that takes thee about?  I saw thee with him in
Brownel Gap on Tuesday when I was going to Rabbi Shimmon.  Thou didst
not see me, no?  Or maybe it suits thee not--when thou art with thy
lord's son?  The town talks!  Tell me then, what wills he with thee?
It likes me him not!"

"Oh, for God's sake, _tatte_...!"

For one moment the flame of the extinguished conflict seemed to glower
and spit from Philip's eyes.  Then he recovered himself.  He stared
into the pallor of his father's cheeks, avoiding the eyes, avoiding the
deep lines of fatigue about the corners of his mouth.  "Nothing,
_tatte_, a friend!  What will you?"  Reb Monash was about to express
his unease with another question when he too checked himself and the
shadow of this new friendship lay between them, heavy, unexplained.

But when next Strauss seductively introduced the name of Kate into the
conversation, Philip shouted suddenly, at the top of his voice--and in
Cambridge Street, "Go to the devil, you're a swine!"  He turned
savagely on his heel and attempted for four evenings to attain
emancipation in the Doomington Reference Library.  He had not power
enough, however, after the dull prostration of these months, to resist
the suave note of apology and invitation which arrived for him on the
fifth morning.  A little public house near the skating rink the same
evening found them closer friends than before.

Channah was not so easily subdued as Reb Monash.  She had heard ugly
reports--the girls at the hat factory were very eloquent on the
subject--concerning Mr. Strauss and his "goings on."  "Oh, Philip,
Philip, there's a dear!  Won't you now ... come, Feivele!  Oh, do give
him up!  I hate him, I hate him!  Give him up for my sake!" ... She
returned frequently to the attack and knew devastatingly where his
defences were weakest.  "Not for me, give him up for mother's sake!"

Philip temporized.  He'd think about it.  What was all the worry about;
couldn't he take care of himself?  Channah, really, old girl, what on
earth was there to sing about?

"But think!  What would she have said?  She'd have..."

"She'd have loved him!  Just those little ways that any woman..."

"Any woman!  That's just what I said!"

"Oh, shut up, Channah, for Heaven's sake, shut up!"


The collapse came suddenly.  It was a shoddy enough affair.  When
Strauss left him with Kate in Kate's house in Carnford Avenue in order
to repair next door with her friend, Patsy of the broad bosom and the
yellow hair, what was there for the youth to do, when Kate with
half-closed eyes, through soft lips purred, "Coming, honey?" what was
there but thickly to reply, "I'm following, Kate!" while the temples
beat like hammers and the banisters seemed clammy with desire and shame.

Somewhat intently Dorah examined him when he returned to Longton next
morning.  She dropped into the Yiddish suitable for the expression of
deep feeling.  "_Nu_, and where hast thou been all night?  Not enough
for thee to come in at twelve, at one, but thou must spend the night
too!  What was?  Thy socialistic friends or thy wonderful Lord
Backstreet?  _Blegatchies_, knockabouts, thy whole brotherhood!"

Philip winced.  "Astronomy!" he declared sickly.  "We've been examining
a new ... a new comet!"

"It is no good for thee, thy Astronomy!" she declared categorically.
"Thou art a tablecloth!  An evening indoors with a book would do thee
no harm.  Or thou hast forgotten how to read, say?"

All that day he spent sitting in his own bedroom, a closed book before
him, staring into the wall-paper beyond.  Neither thoughts nor emotions
stirred within him; only somewhere far down, there was a sensation as
of a finger plucking at the strings of an instrument.

He had arranged to see Kate once more, about a week later.  There was
no conflict now.  Heavily he saw the clock fingers creeping towards the
hour of his appointment, and listlessly he closed the door behind him.
A cool, clear evening was about them as Strauss and Philip repaired
towards Carnford Avenue, with a wind in their faces which, in higher
levels, was chasing clouds like yachts along the channels of the sky.
As Kate's door closed behind them, the passing wind seemed to Philip a
hand which had endeavoured to seize his coat, but, failing, moaned and
subsided in the dark threshold of the house.

The sensation of something calling and something forsworn did not
desert him.  Now it was once more a wind attempting to circumvent the
crooked chimney and sobbing away at length with a rattle in its throat.
Now it was a finger of flame leaping from the fire in sudden appeal, or
the sight of his own face in a looking-glass, curiously impressing upon
him the fact that he had not only brought one self to this place, but
many selves, some of whom had once played a seemlier part in the comedy
of his days than he who now produced a distracted image in Kate's
looking-glass.

Conversation flowed in the room like beer from a public house tap,
surfaced with froth and smelling stalely.  He was talking with the
others, but the lips seemed to be as much another's as his own, the
lips of one over whom he had triumphed once and again, but who was
triumphing now.  Wilfrid Strauss seemed a mannikin manufactured from a
pliant glass, though he showed his rings and crossed his legs as if his
limbs were flesh and bone; transparent almost he seemed, so that the
ugly design of the wall-paper was not intercepted by his contour;
almost brittle, as if, were someone to handle him roughly, he would
fall to the ground in fragments tinkling sharply.  And when finally he
withdrew with Patsy, the peculiar illusion remained with Philip that he
had never in his life encountered a person whose farcical name was
Wilfrid Strauss.

Yet when the woman whispered "Come!" the friend of Wilfrid Strauss did
not disobey.  The wind was still clawing at the window-pane as they
entered her room.  It was only when his eyes were closing in sleep that
he saw moonlight invade the room and heard the wind wailing in the last
horizon.


When he awoke the room was aflood with moonlight.  It flowed over the
bed making the sheets and counterpane cloth of silver.  The walls
dropped from the ceiling in straight falls of frozen mist, the floor
shone like a beaten metal.  It seemed to him that a voice came upon the
path of the moonrays, a voice not of sound but light, saying: Go!  If
it was the mother who had seemed to be dead or perhaps--could it
be?--that woman he had met once in the central gloom of Doomington and
whom he could so clearly envision now, he could not decide--that woman
who had long ago taken him to her bed on the night when he had fled
from his early terrors.  Or perhaps it was none other than his own
voice--for he was about to break free at last--insistently saying, Go,
do not delay!

It was with no sense of shame that he rose from the bed and dressed
quietly in that wizard room.  In this world of cool clear beauty, at
this time of vision, shame had no place.  Had he departed from beauty,
from vision?  He would return thither again.

Kate's hair lay over her face as she slept.  He bent and smoothed her
hair aside and moved away quietly.

He opened the front door of the house and walked along the deserted
pavement of Carnford Avenue.  Walking was not swift enough, it was too
deliberate.  He ran, his limbs loosely swinging over the dark streets.
He ran effortlessly like a deer glimpsed through woods.  He had no
consciousness of direction and though he ran far he was not fatigued.
No thought kept pace beside him beyond the knowledge of his running.

A policeman appeared suddenly from the gloom of a shop entrance.  He
brought down his hand menacingly on Philip's shoulder.  Philip stopped
dead.

"Just a tick, my fine young feller!" the policeman exclaimed.  "Where
are you coming from?"

"From Babylon!" Philip shouted.  "Let me go!  Get out of my way!"

"B--b--babel--what?" the policeman stammered.  His upraised arm fell to
his side.  The lad was fifty yards away, once more running swiftly and
evenly.  Yet no!  He wasn't a burglar!  It wasn't that!  He wasn't
carrying anything, and he certainly wasn't frightened!  Drunk?  Oh no,
not drunk!  Well then, what the 'ell?  If it came to anybody being
frightened...!  He lifted his helmet, passed his hand over his hair and
withdrew again into the shop entrance.

Baxter's Hill!  No sense of recognition or surprise arrested Philip
when he found himself skirting the foot of the hill and, before long,
running over the grassy path by the Mitchen River.  Here he had found
escape before to-night, here wall after wall that girdled the city of
his slaveries had come crashing down!  But as he left the bridge behind
him and followed two or three broad curves of the river, out toward the
cleaner spaces of water, he was conscious only that his strength was
almost spent and his feet were dragging.  Suddenly he collapsed.  His
legs gave way at the knees and his forehead fell into thick grass.  The
strange elation which had impelled him into the night, in a single
moment deserted him.  His body was racked with misery, his face
twitched.  With a last effort he turned his body round, stretched out
his arms, and lay staring into passionless night.  Stark misery held
him clamped to the ground.

Vain and vain, he felt, his life had been, his life consummated now by
this last treachery!  Each of his little philosophies had but pandered
to his conceit, to his sentimental stupidities, immured him the more
closely in the stinking castle of Self.  Sex had led him away and he
had wallowed in its sty--he who had been granted, by his living mother
and his dead, the surest path into open spaces and a wind from the
sea....

So for some time in this black despair he reproached himself with
having at no time accepted the clean way; as having been always odious,
an insect in rotten wood.  The mood passed.  Another came, not armed
with talons, but cold, profound, like a fog.  How long this mood lasted
there can be no telling.  Yet it was at the very heart of this
desolation that he became aware of a warmth and a benediction which had
descended upon him.  His face was being soothed with the contact of
kindly flesh!  He heard the breathing of an animal.  At last he knew
that a horse was moving its soft mouth up and down his face, assuring
him that now he might throw aside his sorrow, enter once more into the
company of innocent things.  A few yards away he perceived another
horse grazing, a misty sweetness against the background of night.  The
beauty of the arched line of its neck seemed almost to arrest his
heart.  The horse over him, as having achieved its intent, brought its
head away.  He could hear the champing of its jaws, the tearing of
grass.

The lad looked steadily towards the waned stars and the clear moon.
Much lay behind him, he knew.  More lay in front of him.  Beyond the
bridge along the road, deep in his city, lay a little thing and a
great, the first republic, School, whose citizenship he must yet earn.
He had moved there hitherto with averted eyes, a stranger.  Thence
great affairs and greater expanded circle-wise, beyond race, beyond
country, beyond even the gigantic world, out beyond the moon, the sun;
even--he laughed aloud--even into the hazard of the very stars.

He rose from the grass and walked over to the water's edge.  The air
was warm with the new summer.  The two horses moved about near him,
like friends.  He was young, young!  Come, it would be morning soon!
Was a sleepy bird already singing a first song?

He slipped off his clothes swiftly and dived into the water.  When he
rose again, the water-drops flung from his hair gleamed like gems.  It
was cold, harshly, superbly cold; but he shouted for joy as he struck
for the bank in the first breath of the morning.  The horses rubbed
their noses together and communed.



GLOSSARY

(_The following Yiddish words--mainly, of course, of Hebrew or German
extraction--are spelt in such a fashion as rather to recall their
actual pronunciation than to indicate what is often a dubious or mixed
origin._)

_Becher_.  Beaker.

_Blintsie_.  A thin cake, usually of mashed potatoes, and fried in oil.

_Bobbie_.  Grandmother.

_Chayder_.  A Hebrew school.

_Chazan_.  A professional cantor at services.

_Davenning_.  The reciting of prayers, which must not be interrupted by
extraneous matter.

_Folg mir_.  Obey me.

_Gollus_.  The dispersion; the exile.

_Goyishke_.  Gentile (adj.).

_Ligner_.  Liar.

_Machzer_.  Festival prayer-book.

_Maggid_.  Professional orator.

_Minchah_.  Afternoon service.

_Minyon_.  The quorum of ten worshippers for prayer.

_Mishkosheh_.  Be content; that will do.

_Mitzvah_.  Lit. a command; hence, a pious act.

_Nekaveh_.  A female.

_Perinny_.  An exaggerated eiderdown.

_Shabbos_.  The Sabbath Day, Saturday, on which, among many
prohibitions, it is forbidden to ride.

_Shiksah_.  A Gentile girl.

_Shmaltz_.  Fat, usually of fowls.

_Shmeis_.  To give a whipping.

_Shool_.  Synagogue.

_Takke_.  Indeed.

_Tallus and Tephilim_.  Praying-shawl and phylacteries.

_Yamelke_.  Skull-cap.

_Yeshiveh_.  A highly advanced _chayder_.

_Yom tov_.  Lit. a good day; hence, festival.

_Zadie_.  Grandfather.



_The Mayflower Press, Plymouth, England_.  William Brendon & Son, Ltd.





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